Planning for Disabilities and Special Needs

Creating a disaster preparedness plan that includes people with disabilities or special needs is not as complicated as you might think. By looking at all of the potential problems you might encounter and considering the needs of your plan members, you can develop an effective strategy for handling emergency situations. If you carefully think out the answers to the questions below, you’ll help people with special needs successfully navigate an emergency.

Who will be responsible for assisting the person with special needs? When a disaster strikes, you’ll have a lot of responsibility as the plan leader. If possible, designate someone else to be in charge of caring for, assisting and monitoring the person with special needs in your group.

What mobility needs do you need to consider? Is there any chance you’ll have to evacuate to a shelter, another city or even out-of-state? You need to consider this possibility when you’re making your emergency preparations. Plan for the mobility needs of the special needs person you’re caring for. Does he/she require a special mode of transport? Do you have a collapsible wheelchair or spare crutches in your supplies? Is your primary vehicle the right choice to transport everyone—including the person with special needs—should you have to leave home?

Will transportation assistance be needed to evacuate in advance of a hurricane? In Texas, there is a special-assistance registry for people who are unable to evacuate on their own. To arrange for transportation for yourself or a family member, call 2-1-1.It’s important to remember that 2-1-1 is not an emergency number to call during a storm – you must pre-register for evacuation transportation.

For more information about evacuation assistance, visit:
http://www.dads.state.tx.us/hurricane/index.cfm

Does a plan member have special medication needs? People with special needs may require routine medications as part of their daily treatment. Do you have a complete list of medications, dosages and times they should be taken? Do you have copies of prescriptions to show emergency/rescue personnel? Is there someone in your family or group who will monitor a dosage schedule and administer medications?

Are you prepared for a prolonged stay away from home? In a serious emergency, you might find your time away from home extended by weeks or even months, so you have to consider how you’ll handle a prolonged evacuation period for a person with special needs. Where will you go? Are you aware of medical professionals in the area who can provide the special services required? Do you know where you’ll fill prescriptions or restock the special supplies you might need? If you need dialysis treatments, do you know where facilities are located?

These are just some of the issues you’ll need to consider when making emergency plans that include disabled or special needs people. For additional information on planning for people with special needs and helpful tips to effectively manage an emergency situation, visit:
http://www.dshs.state.tx.us/preparedness/e-prep_public.shtm#special