For many of us, the extent of our knowledge about emergency preparedness might be the fire drills we did at school, but it’s important to think about being ready for emergencies at home, too. This is especially true for anyone with a disability or medical condition.
If you have a disability or medical condition, there are several things you can do to make sure you’re as prepared as possible in case of an emergency.
1. Pack your emergency kit
Everyone should have an emergency kit that includes:
- Three-day supply of water for the household (one gallon per day per person)
- Three day supply of nonperishable food (plus a can opener, if food is canned)
- Battery-powered or crank radio
- Flashlight and batteries
- Back-up mobile phone battery
- First aid kit
- Moist towelettes, garbage bags, and plastic ties for sanitation
2. Pack any medical supplies or medications
This is a separate step because it’s so important. You should have a week’s worth of medications in your emergency supplies, but keep in mind that this includes supplies other than medications, too. For instance, if you use insulin, make sure you’ve got syringes, test strips, and maybe even a back-up glucometer. Consider an insulated cooler with an instant cold pack if any of your medications need to be refrigerated.
Other items to include are catheters, hearing aid batteries, wheelchair batteries, oxygen tubing or tanks, or supplies for any other medical devices you use on a regular basis. If you can afford it, a generator might be a good idea, too.
3. Plan ahead for your pets or service animal
Make sure you have food and water available for your animals in your emergency supplies. Leashes, harnesses, pet carriers, and a familiar, comforting toy might also be a good idea. Be sure to have some potty pads, as well as any medications your animals take. If your pet will be walking, rather than in a pet carrier, consider getting some protective footwear for him or her, just in case your animal has to walk over any broken glass or wreckage. If your pet is a service animal, make sure you’ve got a service vest for it, and keep copies of your service animal’s records with your other documents.
4. Get your paperwork in order
Have copies of your important documents in a waterproof, fire-resistant container. You should have documents like birth certificates, wills, marriage certificates, deeds, and the like, but you should also have an up-to-date copy of a medication list, insurance information, and notes about your day-to-day needs. If in doubt about a particular document, include a copy.
5. Wear a medical alert bracelet or necklace
There are endless choices when it comes to a medical alert device, but what really matters is that you have something. Many medical alert items come with a notecard so you can write down your medications, conditions, or allergies. Make sure you fill out this card (or you can use any notecard, labeled clearly as “medical info”). Wear your medical alert bracelet or necklace at all times, and make sure your medical info card is in your wallet or billfold and up-to-date.
6. Do a self-assessment
Be realistic. If you know you’re unable to navigate stairs, going to the basement isn’t a good tornado plan. Instead choose a safer main-level room and keep your emergency supplies there. Figure out what you’re capable of, and make your emergency plans accordingly.
7. Contact your local emergency information management offices
First, find out what sort of help to expect from emergency services in your area. If you’ve already done a good self-assessment, you should know what you might need help with. Now find out what emergency services will and will not do. Let them know if you’ll need help or if you’re dependent on electric medical devices, like oxygen or a motorized wheelchair. They might have a registry for disabled people, so that they’ll be able to focus rescue efforts or power restoration efforts where needed.
You can also let your utility companies know. If your utility companies know you’ll be unable to evacuate in case of an emergency, they might work harder to restore or maintain your utilities during a disaster.
8. Have a list of contacts
You should have a copy of a contact list in with your documents, but have one on hand, too – especially if you might need help in an emergency situation. At the Centers for Disease Control website, a disabled woman named Nikole describes her own emergency situation. She’d participated in a program called “Ready Now!” through the Oregon Office of Disability and Health, which focuses on helping prepare disabled people for emergency situations. Thanks to her advance preparation, Nikole had all her emergency supplies ready, including a contact list, as she states:
“The most important thing I learned from ‘Ready Now!’ was to have a back-up plan in case of an emergency situation. When I heard the snow was coming, I emailed all my caregivers to find out who lived close by and would be available.”
9. Get a communication plan in place
Put together a list of friends and family who will worry about you if there’s an emergency. Give their contact information to someone who lives in a different location, and ask this person to act as a relay for you if something happens. This way, if communication or phones are interrupted by an emergency, you’ll only need to let one person know what’s going on. Then he or she can pass the information along to everyone else.
Also, if you’re trapped or in need of help, but the 911 line is busy or interrupted, you might be able to call someone outside the affected area. He or she can then find a way to get in touch with your local emergency services to let them know you’re in need of help.
10. Know your steps
When an actual emergency happens, it’s easy to get flustered. To reduce the risk that you’ll forget what to do, think through the situation in advance. Practice your steps, if you want. Post a numbered list somewhere you can see it. Do you need to make phone calls or send emails first? Will you have to shut off utilities? Where are your fire escape routes? How long does it take you to pack for an evacuation?
What have you done to make sure you’re prepared for an emergency?
Image by Lane Pearman via Flickr