March ushers in spring and a renewed awareness that life can be unpredictable due to natural disasters. In Wisconsin, spring reminds us of the possibility of severe weather and tornadoes. But, other emergencies include extreme heat or a heat wave, fire, and flash floods. This is a time to review how to be prepared for the unthinkable and plan for that event you hope never happens to you or your family.
Did you know that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends that in an event of a natural disaster, everybody should be prepared to live on their own for at least three days? Three days is a long time. So, let’s get ready! It’s time to
- Be Informed
- Make a Plan
- Build a Kit
There are a lot of things to think about before making a plan. Here’s a quick list of things to consider.
Personal or Family Assessment
Make a list of what your abilities are and what kind of assistance, support, medical equipment, or assistive technology you use every day.
Alerts and Warnings
How are you going to be alerted about an eminent danger?
Will you hear a smoke detector or a tornado siren?
What would you do if a caregiver could not reach you because the roads are blocked?
What would you do if the elevator is not working?
How will you leave your home and where would you meet up with your family if you are separated?
How will you communicate during an evacuation if your hearing aids or communication devices are lost or damaged?
Where would you go in your home if you needed to take shelter?
If you needed to leave your home, community shelters may not be ideal for you because they are often overcrowded, noisy, and difficult to maneuver. Is there someplace else you could go?
How will you tell others about your needs and any assistance you may need with hygiene, taking medicine, or with medical treatments?
Would you need help taking care of your pets or service animal?
Do you need electricity for medical equipment or assistive technology?
What would you do if you do not have access to electricity for an extended period of time?
Is there a low-tech alternative you could use if your assistive technology device is damaged?
Have you contacted your local fire or police department informing them that you have a disability and may need help in case of an emergency?
Have you notified your local utility company that you are electric-dependent?
Personal Support Network
Do you have at least three people who could help you in case of an emergency?
Do you have written directions explaining treatments and directions for operating medical equipment and assistive technology?
Emergency Papers and Medical Information
Do you have basic contact information of family, friends, support people, your pharmacy, doctor/clinics, case manager, bank/credit cards, and veterinarian?
Do you have all your legal papers, identification and insurance policies together in one spot?
Do you have a list of medical information including date of birth, medical conditions, allergies, communication needs, medications, medical equipment, and supplies?
Make a Plan
After considering these questions, now you are ready to make a plan. The plan is acting on what you have learned from thinking about these questions. You have the information and documents you need. You are ready to write your plan and have at least one copy of it printed out. You may also want to give a copy of your plan to a friend or family member that does not live with or near you.
Build a Kit
Your kit will include your plan and supplies to take care of yourself and family members for at least three days. Remember that after a natural disaster, you may not have power (gas/electricity) or water. Your emergency supply kit could be stored in a waterproof container(s) such as:
- A plastic tub or crate on wheels
- An under-bed storage bin
- Extra-large sealable bags
You may also want to place a “take and go” list on or in your emergency kit of items you would need to add, such as medicines.
It may seem overwhelming, but building your kit can be done over time. The key is to start working on it now. A workbook that provides a detailed framework is Seven Steps to Personal Emergency Preparedness. It has checklists and forms you can use as part of your kit.