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Preparing for an emergency is critical for everyone—but especially so for people with disabilities. Since Sept. 11, communities, corporations, schools and families have all been charged with the task of proactively planning for the possibility of a future disaster by developing inclusive plans for every situation.
Unfortunately, emergency planning for the masses may not always accommodate people with disabilities. Disaster strategies must have contingency plans in place in all critical stages of an emergency: planning, response and recovery.
Emergency Planning Tips for People with Disabilities
Additional Emergency Supplies for People with Disabilities
Local Emergency Contacts for People with Disabilities
Emergency First Responders – 9-1-1
Information and Referral – 2-1-1
TTY Relay – 7-1-1 (if you are deaf, use this instead of 9-1-1)
Speech to Speech Relay – 877-743-8231
Indiana State Emergency Management Agency
302 W. Washington St., Room E-208A
Indianapolis, IN 46204-2767
Disability Rights and Emergency Preparedness
As people with disabilities, their family and friends take the necessary steps to prepare themselves for the event of an emergency, it is important to keep in mind the various rights and responsibilities under the law. At the federal level, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), play significant roles in requiring accessible emergency planning. In addition, some state and local governments have additional requirements on accessible emergency planning.
Understanding the law applied to emergency preparedness:
Emergency Preparedness Checklist for Individuals with Disabilities
Personal Support Network
Your personal support network consists of individuals who will check in with you in an emergency to ensure you are OK and to provide you with any assistance you may need. Do not depend on any one person—include at least three people you can depend upon to help you.
Prior to an emergency, make arrangements for your support network to immediately check on you (e.g., after a tornado, earthquake, etc.) and offer assistance.
Give members of your support network pertinent keys—to your house, medical supplies, etc.
Show your support network where you store emergency supplies.
Share copies of your relevant emergency documents, evacuation plans and emergency health information card.
Agree and practice a communications system regarding how to contact one another in an emergency. Do not rely on the telephone—it might be out of order as a consequence of a disaster.
You and your personal support network should immediately notify one another when possible to do so safely when an emergency occurs.
Emergency Contact List
Ask several relatives or friends who live outside your immediate area (approximately 100 miles away) to act as a clearinghouse for information about you and your family immediately following a disaster. It is often easier to place an out-of-state long distance telephone call from a disaster area than to call within the area. All family members should know to call your contact people to report their locations and condition. Once contact has been established, the contact person(s) should relay messages to your other friends and relatives outside the disaster area.
Besides emergency out-of-town contacts, your emergency contact list should include emergency response agencies, personal support network, equipment vendors, doctors, utility companies, employers, schools and day care center information, for all household members. Post this list by all telephones in your home.
Work with your doctor to obtain an extra supply of medication, as well as extra copies of prescriptions. Make several copies of your prescriptions and put one copy in each of your survival kits, car kit and wallet, with your emergency documents and your evacuation plan.
Ask your doctor if it would be safe to periodically miss one dosage of your medication(s), until an adequate emergency supply has been accumulated. Some medications should never be missed, not even once; it is of vital importance to follow your doctor's recommendation on establishing your emergency medication reserve.
Ask your health care provider or pharmacist about the shelf life and storage temperature sensitivities of your medication(s). Ask how often you should rotate stored medication to ensure that they remain effective and do not weaken due to lengthy storage.
If your medications are administered to you by a clinic or hospital (such as methadone, or chemo or radiation therapy), ask your provider how you should plan for a 3-14 day disruption.
Equipment and Assistive Devices
Store equipment and assistive devices in a consistent, convenient and secured place, so you and others can quickly and easily locate them during an emergency.
Maintain backup equipment such as a spare battery or manual wheelchair.
Emergency health information card that lists information about medications, equipment, allergies and sensitivities, communication difficulties, preferred treatment, treatment-medical providers, and important contact people
Instructions on personal assistance needs and how best to provide them
Copy of emergency documents
Essential medications/copies of prescriptions (at least a one-week supply)
Flashlight on key ring
Signaling device (whistle, beeper, bell, screecher)
Small battery-operated radio and extra batteries
Supplies to Include in Emergency Kits
Store your kits in areas you anticipate will be easy to reach. If evacuation is necessary, make sure you take with you:
Food and water for three days (one gallon per person, per day), blankets, non-electric (manual) can opener
Disability-related supplies for up to two weeks (If unable to afford extra supplies, consider contacting disability-specific organizations such as the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and the Arthritis Foundation).
Life in cramped, unheated shelters can increase the chances of pneumonia and colds. Equip your kits with any vitamins or medications you take to guard against getting sick and to cope with being sick.
Communication: Practice Assertiveness Skills
Take charge and practice how to quickly explain to people how to move your mobility aids and how to safely and rapidly move you. Be prepared to give clear, specific and concise instructions and directions to rescue personnel, e.g., "take my oxygen tank;" "take my insulin from the refrigerator;" "take my communication device from under the bed." Practice giving these instructions with the least amount of words in the least amount of time.
Be prepared to request an accommodation from disaster personnel. For example, if you are unable to wait in long lines for extended periods of time, practice clearly and concisely explaining why you cannot wait in line.
Conduct a Self-Assessment
Evaluate your capabilities, limitations, needs and surroundings to determine what type of help you will require in an emergency.
Designate a room in your home for shelter in case of a chemical or biological attack, and have on hand a roll of duct tape, scissors and plastic for covering windows and vents.
Determine how to shut off utilities (gas, water, electricity) for safety reasons.
Keep on hand a fire extinguisher you are able to operate.
Organize your evacuation kit so you can carry it to another location. If needed, arrange for duplicate kits at other sites.
Determine how you will be evacuated. Move or secure large objects that might block your evacuation route.
Write instructions for the following (keep a copy with you and share with your support network):
Source: Administration on Developmental Disabilities; Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; ADD Program Update, June/July 2006.
New Internet Video Course: Ready, Willing, & Able Assisting People with Disabilities During Disasters
Ready, Willing & Able is now available as a free, professional, 2 hor, introductory, online training course offered for independent study and for continuing education. It is designed for public health and hospital staff, health professionals, disaster preparedness managers, emergency response workers, and personnel working with people with disabilities.
To get on board, first create an account at http://www.train.org/. The course name Ready, Willing, & Able and course number 1010882 are necessary to get to the course and register.
For help developing an inclusive disaster plan of any size, or for additional information on emergency preparedness for people with disabilities, click on the links below:
I Am Citizen Prepared: a publication for people with disabilities and the people who support them regarding emergency preparedness. http://www.iidc.indiana.edu/cac/products/citizenprepared.htm.
The National Organization on Disability has an Emergency Preparedness Initiative which has a brochure specifically focused on preparedness for folks with cognitive impairments. http://www.nod.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=Feature.showFeature&FeatureID=1570.
Effective Emergency Preparedness Planning: Addressing the Needs of Employees with Disabilities
National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)
FEMA: Individuals with Special Needs
Evacuating Wheelchair Users
U.S. Department of Homeland Security – Ready America – People with Disabilities and Other Special Needs
National Organization on Disability – Emergency Preparedness Resources and Emergency Preparedness Initiative (EPI)
Special Populations: Emergency and Disaster Preparedness
Disaster Preparedness Resources for People with Disabilities
MyDisasters – Disability Preparedness
The Inclusive Preparedness Center
Employers' Guide to including Employees with Disabilities in Emergency Evacuation Plans
Administration on Developmental Disabilities – Disaster Preparedness
Emergency Evacuation Guide for People with Disabilities – from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)
Preparing for Disaster for People with Disabilities and other Special Needs (PDF) – from the American Red Cross
Principles for Preparedness (PDF) – A Guide for First Responders, Relief Organizations and Government Agencies from the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities
Saving Lives: Including People with Disabilities in Emergency Planning (PDF) – from the National Council on Disability
An ADA Guide for Local Governments (PDF) – Making Community Emergency Preparedness and Response Programs Accessible to People with Disabilities, from the U.S. Department of Justice
Emergency Preparedness: Taking Responsibility for Your Safety – Tips for People with Disabilities and Activity Limitations, from the Emergency Survival Program
Tips For First Responders In Assisting Persons With Disability (PDF) – The Center for Development and Disability
Practical Information on Crisis Planning: A Guide for Schools and Communities - The U.S. Department of Education
ADA Best Practices Toolkit:
Chapter 7, Emergency Management under Title II of the ADA (HTML) | (PDF)
Chapter 7, Addendum 1: Title II Checklist (Emergency Management) (HTML) | (PDF)
Chapter 7, Addendum 2:The ADA and Emergency Shelters: Access for All in Emergencies and Disasters (HTML) | (PDF)
Chapter 7, Addendum 3: ADA Checklist for Emergency Shelters (HTML) | (PDF)
Introduction to Appendices 1 and 2 (PDF)
Emergency Preparedness Checklists – The Ohio Legal Rights Service provides usual information for anyone with a disability planning for an emergency:
Readiness Checklist – Emergency Plan for Home (PDF)
Shelter Checklist – Be Prepared to Go to a Shelter (PDF)
Yellow Checklist – Important People and Places (PDF)
Create Your Own Checklists – these guides make it easy to create your own emergency preparedness checklist, from the Ohio Legal Rights Service:
Readiness Checklist: Emergency Plan for Home
Shelter Checklist: Be Prepared to Go to a Shelter
Yellow Checklist: Important People and Papers
IPAS Emergency Planning Guide (PDF)