Tag: disability

Emergency Preparedness for People with Disabilities or Special Health Needs


Overlooked or Abandoned?

Every week I get one or another Google Alert about some group that is either not taking care of itself in an emergency or that has been overlooked by “the authorities.”

In our community CERT group, we do not have the where-with-all to take care of neighbors with disabilities. We don’t have specialized medical knowledge, or (expensive) specialized equipment or even the physical stamina to lift or move some of them. But . . .

We are aware of our neighbors and do our best to keep their needs in mind . . .

as we work on building our – and their — readiness to respond in the face of a disaster. As you build your own neighborhood group, here are

Some questions to ask:

Evacuation sign for disabled.

from Lee Wilson, founder at The Egress Group. More at http://accessibleexitsigns.com/

Shelter-in-Place.  When a heavy storm hits, the best course for most people is to shelter in place, assuming they have stored food, clothing, etc.  The questions to ask your disabled neighbors:

  1. Do you have food supplies that you are able to prepare for yourself (canned food, water) or do you depend on regular food deliveries from Meals on Wheels or other food service?
  2. Do you use any electric or electronic devices to treat a chronic condition, such as breathing treatments or sleeping machines? What plans do you have for back-up power? (Oxygen tanks, battery back-up)

Needed travel.  Do any of your neighbors need regular trips away from their home to get medical treatments like as kidney dialysis? In a severe weather situation, can your neighbor answer these questions:

  1. Do you know what to do if you are unable to reach your doctor for several days? (diet, hydration)
  2. Do you know where to go for treatment if your local clinic is closed? (addresses of alternate locations)
  3. Who would come to get you for dialysis if your regular caregiver isn’t available?
  4. What if the elevator isn’t working?

Evacuation.  In the case of an evacuation, many people who may not appear disabled may need assistance.  For example, people who are hard of hearing might not recognize the signal to evacuate. People with difficulty walking might not be able to negotiate stairs. People who can walk may not be able to handle door handles or locks. Questions to ask:

  1. Does our building/community have evacuation signage that incorporates signage for disabled people? (visual? touchable?)
  2. Is there a plan to find people ready and able to assist disabled people to evacuate?
  3. Is specialized evacuation equipment necessary, and available?

Practice and planning do make a difference.

The National Fire Protection Association’s 2007 Emergency Evacuation Planning Guide for People with Disabilities tells the following story.

During the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, a man with a mobility impairment was working on the 69th floor. With no plan or devices in place, it took over six hours to evacuate him. In the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center, the same man had prepared himself to leave the building using assistance from others and an evacuation chair he had acquired and had under his desk. It only took 1 hour and 30 minutes to get him out of the building this second time. 

Perhaps you can share this story with friends and with your CERT team to stimulate some creative thinking.


Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

Forward this email to someone you know who could use the information.  One out of five Americans has some sort of disability.



How Are People With Special Needs Faring?


As I write this, headlines say that over 700,000 people in the southeast are without power. Hundreds of thousands of people were told to stay home, power or no power. So I’m thinking about a particular subset of people who are at home and are going to be more than inconvenienced. These are folks who may be in real danger if somebody hasn’t made arrangements for them ahead of time.

Two Groups in Real Danger


Special needs in emergency

Who’s monitoring food and medicines?

1. People with special medical needs. What about people who need a ventilator? Sleep-apnea equipment? Oxygen? People who are on a feeding tube or a negative-pressure wound vacuum? What about people who simply need an elevator to get into or out of their building? Are all these people getting the care they need right now with the electricity out and driving restricted? 2. Home-bound seniors. What about seniors who can’t get out and who depend on a program like Meals on Wheels for their main food source or on a home-health care agency for help with daily activities such as bathing or eating or getting the proper dose of medicine? If drivers who provide these services can’t safely travel, what is happening to their clients?

Hidden Misery, Hidden Disaster

According to U.S. census figures, approximately 20% of the population is disabled. That figure rises to nearly 80% of people over 80.  That’s at least 140,000 in the storm-covered southeast today who have special emergency preparedness needs. Those who are prepared – with generators or batteries or hand-driven equipment, and with extra food and personal supplies – will probably make it through this storm OK. But some percentage of these people will NOT be prepared. I’m wondering just how well they are doing, and if they know who to call for help, or if they CAN call if their phone service is disrupted. We’ve seen on the news the traffic jams, the accidents, and cars stranded in the snow.

Stories Yet To Emerge

We haven’t heard yet about isolated individuals trapped in their homes. Those stories will be slow to emerge – but those people are in the middle of their emergencies right now!

Do you have friends or family that belong to one of these special groups, or who serve them?

  1. Can you offer any assistance right now?
  2. Do you have plans for them as you and your family or CERT group make preparations for future emergencies?

These special  groups will always need extra consideration.