Simply put, preparedness should be a priority for all. Yet, in reality, the resources available for disabled individuals doesn’t come anywhere near those available for others. Individuals with disabilities have unique needs and certainly require a personal preparedness plan along with a reliable support network to lean on. This month, Portlight Strategies, in conjunction with FEMA, has started the social media campaign, #RUReady to raise awareness and educate on disaster preparedness for the disabled. To support the important cause, we wanted to provide some tips to help with the initiative!
Have a plan: Whether it’s an evacuation, or dealing with a flood, earthquake, fire, tornado, or power outage, it’s crucial to be prepared for anything. And for individuals with disabilities, every little detail will make a huge difference. Some details to think about and include are:
- The roles individuals will play in an emergency – does the individual require a caregiver? If so, how will he or she be reached in an emergency and who will be the backup caregiver?
- What is the evacuation policy and plan out of the home or workplace? Does it account for a wheelchair or other mobility issues?
- How will family members be notified of the status of the individual over the duration of the disaster, and when?
- If the individual has to evacuate, where will he or she go, and which shelters are able to accommodate any unique needs the individual might require? For example, is it an assistive shelter that may be able to provide better, specialized care for a bed-ridden individual? Or one that will allow for a service dog? These aspects are incredibly important as one may need to stay in a shelter for days.
Once your plan is complete, everyone involved should be aware of the details and their specific role in the disaster. And remember to always have backup plans, as your original strategy may certainly be tested in an emergency!
Emergency Kit: An emergency kit is absolutely crucial! Along with the basic items such as water to last at least 72 hours and non-perishable food, items such as a flashlight, whistle, thermal blanket, first aid kit, batteries, and cash, are all important items to store in your kit. If you have a service animal, be sure to pack some items for them as well such as extra food, an ID tag, additional water and a blanket. For those that require medical equipment, an extra supply should be stored. This includes anything from a list of all the names and model numbers of necessary medical equipment, to oxygen and wheelchair batteries (if they’re required), and an extra stock of prescription medication. Furthermore, people with vision or hearing loss, or other speech-related disabilities may encounter communications barriers that should be and planned for in advance with supportive equipment such as a dry erase board or notepad to communicate messages.
Evacuations: When ample notice is present for a disaster such as a tsunami warning or hurricane forecast, it is crucial to evacuate as soon as possible, and especially so for disabled individuals. One of the top reasons people choose not to evacuate is because they feel they have nowhere to go, making it important to look into these scenarios beforehand. Make a list of shelters that are accommodating, as well as any friends or family that are trustworthy to stay with in an emergency. Waiting to evacuate can be a dangerous gamble as help may be harder to come by after a disaster hits. Be sure to give yourself ample time to evacuate, and never wait it out to see how bad the conditions get.
We truly believe that preparedness should be a priority for all, and campaigns such as #RUReady shed much needed light on emergency preparedness for the disabled. A huge thank you to Portlight Strategies for kick starting the #RUReady initiative! For more information on assistance for disabled individuals, please visit Portlight Strategies and see how you can learn more and get involved.
Thanks for reading!
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