10 Steps People with Disabilities Should Take to Prepare for an Emergency

In Emergency Planning Resources, Featured, News, Resources by eri

Do you know what to do if something bad were to happen? How will you know if a natural disaster is coming? How will rescuers find you if you need help getting out?

The “Be Prepared, Have a Plan: Emergency Preparedness Toolkit for People with Disabilities” can help you plan for and respond to emergencies and natural disasters. The Wisconsin Council on Physical Disabilities developed it to ensure the safety and protect the lives of people, especially those with physical disabilities, before and during emergencies and natural disasters.

Here are their 10 steps to get started preparing for an emergency.

1. Set up a meeting

2. Take responsibility

  • Give duties to each person in your home.
  • Make a plan to work as a team.

3. Plan ahead – You may be separated from your family during an emergency (such as a house fire or evacuation). Plan where you will meet and how you will contact one another. Ask questions:

  • How will you get there?
  • Which way will you go?
  • Is there an evacuation shelter nearby? (For example, you may choose to stay at a hotel or with friends or relatives in a safe location.)

4. Discuss how you will communicate with each other

  • Plan how you will contact your family or other people you live with to let them know you’re safe.
  • Talk about how you will find one another.

5. Make plans for your pet(s)/service animal(s) – Decide how you will take care of your pet(s)/ service animal(s) in a disaster. Remember to plan for their needs too.

  • Decide who will be responsible for each pet during an evacuation. It is best to take your pets with you if you can.
  • Service animals need to stay with the person they have been trained to serve.

6. Have an evacuation plan and practice evacuating your home twice a year

  • Practice driving your planned evacuation route.
  • Find different ways to go in case roads or bridges are closed.
  • Have a plan for what to do if public transportation is unavailable.

7. Choose who you will make contact with during a natural disaster – This is your emergency contact person. He or she should live in another town or state. It may be easier to contact someone outside of your local area during a disaster.

8. Pack emergency supplies that will last for 5 days

  • Use the checklists included in the toolkit and listed below to guide you.
  • Check all of your emergency kits when you change the clocks in the spring and fall. Replace any items that might expire, such as food, water, medicine, or batteries.

9. Be resourceful

  • Find items you already have around the house or buy used items from second-hand stores or garage sales for your emergency kits and GO BAG – a bag that contains essential items you should always have with you.
  • You do not need to do this all at the same time. Put together things you already have first. Make a list of what you need to find; then add things as you go.

10. Be informed
Texts and emails can tell you that bad weather is on the way. They can also tell you when a natural disaster has occurred and how to evacuate.

Tools and Resources

The downloadable Be Prepared, Have a Plan: Emergency Preparedness Toolkit for Persons with Disabilities toolkit includes the tools and resources below. To get the toolkit in an accessible format, contact the Wisconsin Council on Physical Disabilities at 608-266-9354

General Preparedness Checklist (PDF)  
This checklist should help you prepare for natural disasters and/or emergencies before they occur and includes general items you may want to include in your GO BAG (if you need to evacuate) or HOME KIT (if you are home and have to wait on emergency assistance after an natural disaster). Pack your HOME KIT with supplies for at least five days, so you and your family can be prepared with the necessary supplies to survive independently until you can receive emergency assistance.

Disability Preparedness Checklist (PDF)
This checklist includes medical devices, supplies, and assistive technology devices for people with physical disabilities. Pack items you will need for yourself in your GO BAG. You may need to add additional items or devices to this list to meet your individual and/or family’s needs.

Car Checklist (PDF) 
You may need to evacuate or take shelter in your car. Use this list to determine what you should have in your car for different emergency situations and/or weather events, in addition to your GO BAG. You will want to monitor your water and food supplies when there is excessive heat and/or freezing temperatures.

Important Documents Checklist (PDF) 
Use this checklist to identify important documents and other items that you should take with you if there is a natural disaster or emergency. Make copies of the documents and other information, and if possible, also copy the information to a flash drive. Put the documents in your GO BAG. Store this document and other important items/documents in a waterproof container. Always keep the originals in a fireproof safe, safety deposit box, or other safe location! You may not need all the information on this list. Put together only those documents you think you will need to protect yourself, your family and your future!

Reminder Tags (PDF) 
In case of an emergency or natural disaster that requires evacuation, remember to put this item in your GO BAG to take with you.

Medical Emergency Wallet Card (PDF) 
Update the information on your emergency card every 6 months. Keep the card with you at all times, and keep an extra copy in your GO BAG

Family Emergency Planning Form (PDF) 
This is for everyone in your home. Have a family meeting to talk about emergencies. Fill out this form together. When you have finished completing this form, make extra copies. Put a copy in your GO BAG. Everyone in your home should also have one. Put a copy near your phone or on your refrigerator. It should be easy to find.

Visual Communications Tool (PDF) 
The Visual Communications Tool is for quick and easy communication with people during emergencies. This tool can be used to tell others what you need. They can also use the card to tell you what is going on. This tool DOES NOT substitute for accommodations required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

How to Make a Home Fire Escape Plan Form (PDF) 
Pull together everyone in your household and make a plan using this form. Everyone in the household must understand the escape plan.

Medical Information and Emergency Health Care Plan (PDF) 
This form communicates pertinent medical information and preferences to emergency responders or other people who could assist you during an emergency or natural disaster.

Emergency Preparedness Apps (for Phones and Tablets) and Resource Apps for Volunteers, Emergency Responders, and People with Disabilities (PDF) 
This list of apps is meant to be a resource and is not an endorsement of these apps. This is also not an all-inclusive list, but a compilation of information on apps that may be helpful in emergency situations.

Content taken from Be Prepared, Have a Plan: Emergency Preparedness Toolkit for Persons with Disabilities, adapted and endorsed by the Wisconsin Council on Physical Disabilities.

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