To improve emergency readiness for our community, we must consider the abilities of each person to care for himself or herself at a time when help may be limited or take some time to arrive. People with special or functional needs (such as physical or mobility impairments; dietary, communication, or transportation restrictions; cognitive or psychiatric needs; medical conditions, etc.) may have to take additional steps to protect themselves, their family, and their belongings. The important thing is to start preparing now. First responders can perform their duties more successfully when people take the initiative to plan ahead.
The following steps will assist you and your family in planning for an emergency situation:
- Create a support network of family, neighbors, friends, coworkers, and service providers to aid you in an emergency. Discuss your needs and make sure everyone knows how to operate necessary equipment. Tell these people where you keep your emergency supplies.
- If you receive dialysis or other life sustaining medical treatment, identify locations and availability of more than one facility and work with your provider to develop an emergency plan.
- Keep contact information for local independent living centers and other disability services in a safe and easy-to-access place.
- Work with local transportation and disability services to plan ahead for accessible transportation in an evacuation or during a disaster.
- Develop back-up plans for personal assistance services, hospice, or other forms of in-home assistance.
- Keep in mind that during an emergency, you may need to explain to first responders and emergency officials that you need to evacuate and shelter with your family, service animal, caregiver, or personal assistance provider so they can provide the support you need to maintain your health, safety, and independence.
- Collect and keep copies of your important documents in your emergency kit or wallet. Documents may include:
- Copies of medical prescriptions, health history, and allergies
- Physician and pharmacy contact information and doctors' orders
- Style, model, and serial numbers for support devices or equipment needed
- A list of personal contacts, family, and friends that you may need to contact in an emergency
- Laminated personal communication board if you need assistance being understood
- If possible, extra medicine, oxygen, insulin, catheters, or other medical supplies you use regularly
- Review and update your plan twice a year.
- Register with an assistance program. You can check with your city to identify a local registry. If none exists, 2-1-1 Texas may be able to connect you with the services you need.
- Provide the power company with a list of all power-dependent life-support equipment and plan for an alternate power source in advance.
- In the event you are home alone or unable to converse with responders, display important health and medical information on your refrigerator for rapid access by first responders.
- Practice "Assertive Communication" by carrying a written copy of key phrases such as:
- "I cannot read. I can point to pictures or key words you will find in my emergency kit."
- "I may have difficulty understanding what you are telling me. Please speak slowly and use simple language."
- "I forget easily. Please write down information for me."
American Academy of Pediatrics - Emergency Preparedness for Children with Special Health Care Needs
Ready.gov - Information for Older Americans
Texas Department of State Health Services - Individuals with Special Needs