Regional Homeland Security Coordinating Committee

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Preparedness Planning for People with Special Needs

audio icon Podcast:
Preparedness for People with Disabilities

by Rita Hoffman, Former Emergency Management Coordinator, City of Olathe
[Plain text transcript]

Your Very Personal Preparedness Inventory

Do you have children? Are you a senior? Do you or anyone in your family have a disability of any type? Do you need assistance with daily activities or transportation? Do you take medication or use any type of equipment to assist you? Do you have a service animal or a pet?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then it is doubly important for you to take steps ahead of time to prepare for disasters of all kinds.

In addition to standard emergency supplies, you may require additional resources to meet your specific needs. Extra consideration must be given to include these additional resources into your emergency preparedness efforts. The booklet available at the link below is meant to help you 1) assess the additional resources you need the most; 2) gather important information about those resources; and 3) identify possible alternative sources. Download and print the booklet to get started with your inventory┬╗

This page offers guidance for people with functional and access needs such as hearing, vision, mobility and cognitive disabilities. See also our pages for seniors, children, and people with pets.

Special Planning Needs for People with Disabilities

Being ready for a disaster is a part of maintaining your independence. When a disaster occurs, the first priority of disaster relief organizations and government agencies is to provide basic needs — food, water and safe shelter — to everyone who needs them. Your personal needs, such as replacing medications, replacing adaptive equipment, restoring electricity for power-dependent equipment and restoring your regular ways of support for daily living activities, may not be taken care of right away.

You should be ready to meet your specific disability-related needs by storing sufficient oxygen, medications, battery power, etc., for at least seven days after a disaster.

The best way to cope with a disaster is to learn about the challenges you might face and be prepared. You should decide what you will be able to do for yourself and what assistance you may need before, during and after a disaster. This will depend on the environment after the disaster, your capabilities and your limitations.

Assess Your Needs and Resources

Make a list of your personal needs and your resources for meeting them in a disaster environment. Consider the following questions:

Prepare yourself based on the capabilities and limitations you believe you will have after the disaster. Also keep in mind that your usual means of support and assistance may not be available to you for some time during an evacuation and after the disaster has occurred.

Your personal disaster plan

Make a personal disaster plan. This will help you organize information you will need and activities you will do during and after a disaster. Keep copies of your disaster plan in your disaster supplies kit, car, wallet or wheelchair pack, and share your plan with your network of family, friends and caregivers.

Make an emergency information list that you and your network can use. This list will let others know whom to call if they find you unconscious, unable to speak, or if they need to help you evacuate quickly. Besides emergency out-of-town contacts, your list should include the names and numbers of everyone in your network.

If you have a communication disability, make sure your emergency information list notes the best way to communicate with you. This may be by writing notes, pointing to letters, words, or pictures or finding a quiet place.

Complete a medical information list that you and your network can use. The list should have information about your medical providers. Also include the names of medications you take and their dosages, when you take a medication, the condition for which you take a medication, the name of the doctor who prescribed it, and the doctor’s phone number. It is important to record any adaptive equipment you use, your allergies and sensitivities, and communication or cognitive difficulties you may have.

Attach copies of health insurance cards and related information to the medical information list. Keep at least a seven-day supply of essential medications with you at all times. Work with your doctor(s) to get extra supplies of medications and extra copies of prescriptions. Talk with your doctor or pharmacist about what you should do if you do not have enough medicine after a disaster and cannot immediately get what you need. Be sure you ask about the shelf life of your medications and the temperatures at which they should be stored. Determine how often you should replace stored medication. This helps ensure that a medicine’s effectiveness does not weaken because of long storage time.

Note: If you take medications administered to you by a clinic or hospital (such as methadone, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy), ask your provider how you should prepare for a disruption caused by a disaster.

Additional information on equipment and supplies

A red cross worker assists a victim into her wheelchair at a shelter.

If you use a wheelchair or scooter:

If you use a motorized wheelchair or scooter:

More information to help people with special needs prepare for disasters is available from the American Red Cross, including information specifically geared to those who are blind or have another visual disability, are deaf or have a hearing loss, have a speech-related or communication disability, use self-administered medical treatments, or have a cognitive disability. For details, visit the American Red Cross website at