Disability intersects every demographic group—there are people with disabilities of all ages, races, genders or national origin. And, disabilities can impact a person in a variety of ways—both visible and invisible. For people with disabilities and their families, it is important to consider individual circumstances and needs to effectively prepare for emergencies and disasters.
Make a Plan
In the event of a disaster, could you make it on your own for several days? After a disaster you may not have access to a medical facility or even a drugstore. It’s crucial to plan for your daily needs and know what you would do if they become limited or unavailable. Additional planning steps include:
- Create a support network of people who can help you in a disaster. Keep a contact list in a watertight container in your emergency kit or on your electronic devices.
- Inform your support network where you keep your emergency supplies. You may want to consider giving a trusted member a key to your house or apartment.
- Plan ahead for accessible transportation that you may need for evacuation or getting around during or after disaster. Check with local transit providers as well as with your emergency management agency to identify appropriate accessible options.
- Many city and county emergency management agencies maintain voluntary registries for people with disabilities to self-identify in order to receive targeted assistance during emergencies and disasters. Contact your local emergency management office to find out more.
- If you are on dialysis or other life-sustaining medical treatment, know the location and availability of more than one facility that can help you.
- If you use medical equipment in your home that requires electricity, talk to your doctor or health care provider about what you may be able to do to keep it running during a power outage. You can also ask your power provider to put you on a list for priority power restoration.
- About half of all Americans take a prescription medicine every day. An emergency can make it difficult for them to refill their prescription or to find an open pharmacy. Organize and protect your prescriptions, over-the-counter drugs, and vitamins to prepare for an emergency.
- Wear medical alert tags or bracelets. Also add pertinent medical information to your electronic devices.
- If you have a communication disability, consider carrying printed cards or storing information on your devices to inform first responders and others how to communicate with you.
- If you use assistive technologies, plan how you will evacuate with the devices or how you will replace equipment if lost or destroyed.
- Locate and access your electronic health records from a variety of sources by using the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ online tool.
- Plan for children and adults who may have difficulty in unfamiliar or chaotic environments. Consider your service or support animal or pets and plan for food, water and supplies. If you need to evacuate, you’ll need to know whether your shelter allows pets or not, since some shelters only allow service or support animals.
- Keep a list of the nearest medical facilities, local hospitals and nearest transportation.
Get Your Benefits Electronically
A disaster can disrupt mail service for days or weeks. If you depend on Social Security or other regular benefits, switching to electronic payments is an easy way to protect yourself financially before disaster strikes. It also eliminates the risk of stolen checks. The U.S. Department of the Treasury recommends two safer ways to get federal benefits:
- Direct deposit to a checking or savings account. If you get federal benefits you can sign up by calling 800-333-1795 or sign up online.
- The Direct Express® prepaid debit card is designed as a safe and easy alternative to paper checks. Call toll-free at 877-212-9991 or sign up online.
Build a Kit
In addition to having your basic survival supplies, an emergency kit should have items to meet your individual needs in various emergencies. Consider the items you use every day and which ones you may need to add to your kit. While these items will differ depending on your day-to- day needs, general items to keep in mind include:
- Several day’s supply of prescription medication
- A list of all medications, dosage and any allergies
- Extra eyeglasses, contacts, hearing aids and batteries
- A backup supply of oxygen
- A list of the style and serial number of medical devices (include special instructions for operating your equipment if needed)
- Copies of insurance and Medicare cards
- Contact information for doctors, relatives or friends who should be notified if you are hurt
- Pet food, extra water, collar with ID tag, medical records and other supplies for your service or support animal
Tips for Medications
- Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about how you can create an emergency supply of medicines.
- Keep a list of your prescription medicines. Include information about your diagnosis, dosage, frequency, medical supply needs and allergies.
- Store extra nonprescription drugs, like pain and fever relievers, antihistamines and antidiarrheal medicines.
- Have a cooler and chemical ice packs available to chill medicines that need to be refrigerated.
For more information on how to best be prepared in the event of a disaster, visit https://www.ready.gov/disability#kit