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Thread: Disaster prep for disabled

  1. #1

    Disaster prep for disabled

    I was writing a newsletter, kind of stumbled on this subject. It's nearly spring in Oklahoma and time to think about tornadoes, but this stuff applies everywhere.

    Research since 9-11 has shown that the disabled community has an 18% higher rate of severe anxiety related to disaster issues than the able-bodied population. The solution to this anxiety problem is largely related to advanced prepared!

    58 percent of people with disabilities say they do not know whom to contact about emergency plans for their community in the event of a terrorist attack or other crisis. 61 percent say that they have not made plans to quickly and safely evacuate their home. Among those who are employed full or part time, 50 percent say no plans have been made to safely evacuate their workplace. All these percentages are higher than for those without disabilities. "This is a critical discrepancy, because those of us
    with disabilities must in fact be better prepared so we are not at a disadvantage in an emergency," said N.O.D. President Alan A. Reich. There is currently no emergency registry for persons with disability in Oklahoma. This has been suggested to be the responsibility of The Homeland Security Department.

    The following list of resources is hardly exhaustive, but it should help you to decide what steps you should take before disaster strikes. The Red Cross places great emphasis on personal preparedness; toward this end, many local chapters offer written and audiovisual materials as well as classes in disaster survival, first aid, and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). In addition, the Los Angeles chapter (2700 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90057) has published two booklets, "Disaster Preparedness for Disabled & Elderly People" and "Assisting Disabled & Elderly People in Disasters" available for $4 each. It is also available free online, at beprepared/disability.pdf . This publication has comprehensive checklists which, if followed, will result in thorough and simple disaster preparedness. In brief:

    Step 1.
    Complete a personal assessment of your needs
    Collect info and take actions that will help you meet your needs during evacuations and after the disaster has struck. The publication referenced above offers full checklists of necessary information and items.

    Step 2.
    Gather essential supplies you will need during and after a disaster, especially those specific to your disability. Keep these items in a disaster kit which is easily and quickly accessible. Each person with a disability should develop a plan for personal emergency preparedness that will maintain his/her safety and security to the greatest extent possible for up to a 72-hour period in any disaster. Essential items to consider are urinary supplies such as catheters; bowel management supplies like lubricant, latex gloves, suppositories; medications; copies of prescriptions for medications. Assume that the pharmacies and doctors will be unavailable at the time of disaster. Keep kit in a safe dry place. Use items in kit when you replace them every six months. For manual wheelchair users: Keep a patch kit and seal-in-air product in portable disaster supplies kit. Since you will probably be wheeling over broken glass, keep a pair of heavy gloves also. For power chair: Have an extra battery. Check with your wheelchair vendor to see if your battery can be charged with a car battery. This is all in addition to more routine disaster kits containing flashlights, water, first aid kits, etc.

    Step 3.
    Create a personal support network...think of what your needs would be during a disaster, and then discuss those needs with your network members prior to them becoming necessary. It is recommended that disabled persons have at least three network members. When your written emergency assessment is completed, provide network members with a copy. Give network members copies of medication information, drug allergies, doctor contact information. Make sure they have a key to your house and that they know where your disaster kit is located. Arrange with your network members to check on you if a disaster occurs. Make sure they know where to find you, e.g. closet or safe room. Show them how to operate and move special equipment, ensuring they will feel comfortable with the procedures. Label all equipment and attach instruction cards on how to use and move the item. Laminate the cards. Inform members of areas of reduced sensation on your body, so they can assess these areas. Arrange a signal to be left for helpers when you are leaving a disaster area, ensuring that they will know you are okay. Let them know when you are traveling so they won't look for you.

    A few more considerations:

    When you seek shelter, take a cellular phone with you. Communications towers may still exist when land-lines are gone. Long distance calls will often work when local lines are jammed. Have someone in a distant location that will know to expect your call. Ask this out-of-town friend to be your "family contact". Other family members should call this person and tell them where they are. Everyone in your family must know your contact's phone number.

    Plan where to meet after a disaster. Choose two places:

    Right outside your home, in case of a sudden emergency such as a fire.

    Outside your neighborhood, in case you cannot return home or are asked to evacuate your neighborhood.

    After determining your meeting places, you should also:
    Determine the best escape routes from your home. Find two ways out of each room. Determine the best two escape routes out of your neighborhood/community.

    Find out how to care for your pets. Many shelters do not allow them because of health regulations. For information on caring for pets post-disaster, visit the Animal Safety section at
    C5/6 incomplete, injured Aug. 2000

  2. #2
    Bethany, you brought back those first few days and weeks after 9/11 to me; living in NJ, with a huge proportion of our 'bedroom community' affected by the World Trade Center, we very much felt vulnerable - and especially so after the anthrax scares.

    We did pack a kit for Matt, and for ourselves as well, in case we had to leave in a hurry. I think it gave us some measure of security in those very scary weeks and months.

    If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other. - Mother Teresa

  3. #3
    Senior Member Clipper's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2001
    Portland, Oregon
    This is one of the many reasons we decided to leave the Washington, DC area. It was one thing after another -- fear of planes crashing into nearby buildings, anthrax on your mail and snipers shooting at you. Made us think a lot about preparation.

  4. #4
    Super Moderator Sue Pendleton's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2001
    Wisconsin USA
    We were told in rehab that the following should all be told your disability, required needs and where you normally are at different times of the day in your home and if you have pets, service animals and small children: the county fire department and closest fire house, the city or county police and the nearest dispatcher, the electric company if you are dependent on any medical equipment and/or suffer from extremes of heat/cold and live in that kind of climate. If you use a ventilator make sure you let the electric company know if you own a generator or if it will be awhile before you can acquire one (if you can afford one, some apartments will not allow them). If your sole means of movement is a power chair let them know that also. In small towns you may want to discuss short term arrangements with a hospital if you need a vent and other special services (diabetic, sores, etc.)

    Before my SCI when we lived in this area we had a special meet up plan because of all the reasons Clipper stated and living within 5 miles of at least 1 "ground zero". If you can drive and this is a concern you may want to discuss this with family. If you live near Washington DC now, well, I'd register with the nearest group that is supposed to handle emergencies but I sure wouldn't depend on them completely.

    And don't get super anxious over what you really cannot control. I mean we could be done in by a comet, little red people from Mars or the 4 horsemen might ride into the sunrise. Keep your cool.

    Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, "I will try again tomorrow."

  5. #5
    I was living down in Miami in '92 and had to deal with Hurricane Andrew and it's aftermath. We were without power for 6 weeks. Impossible to live as a quad with a powerchair. Lucily, I was able to stay with my grandfather who lived up in West Palm Beach. It was still pretty rough.

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