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Special and Functional Needs

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 impairment; dietary, communication, or transportation restrictions; cognitive or psychiatric needs; medical conditions, etc.) may have to take additional steps to protect yourself, your family, and your belongings.  The important thing is to start preparing. First responders can perform their duties more successfully when people take the initiative to plan ahead.

  • Create a support network of family, neighbors, friends, coworkers, and services 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 organizations in a safe and easy-to-access place.
  • Work with local transportation and disability services to plan ahead for accessible transportation for evacuation or other reasons 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, doctors orders; and style, model, and serial numbers for support devices or equipment needed
    • List of personal contacts, family and friends that you many need to contact in an emergency
    • Copy of insurance policies – medical, home, vehicles, personal property, etc.
    • Copy of important financial and business information – bank accounts, credit cards, securities, deeds, loans, etc. including company contact information
    • Even if you do not use a computer yourself, consider putting important information onto a portable thumb drive for easy transport during an evacuation
  • Assemble an emergency supply kit in a duffle or backpack. Depending on your needs, items for your go kit may also include:
    • Extra eyeglasses, hearing aids if you have them
    • Battery chargers and extra batteries for hearing aids, motorized wheelchairs, or other battery-operated medical or assistive technology devices
    • Supplies for your service animal
    • Laminated personal communication board, if you might need assistance with 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; check through 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.

Additional Considerations

  • 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."
Resources

Disability.gov - Emergency Preparedness
Accessible Emergency Information
Texas Department of State Health Services - Individuals with Special Needs Preparedness
Ready.gov - Older Americans
American Academy of Pediatrics - Preparedness for Children with Special Health Needs
FEMA for Kids
Disaster Preparedness for Pets