All individuals, including people with disabilities, should take the time before a disaster to plan for survival at home, in a shelter, or elsewhere in the event of an actual emergency.
In addition to the recommended items in the Get a Kit section, people with disabilities and other access and functional needs may wish to consider the following in their preparations.
Now is the time to plan ahead for what you may need to stay safe, healthy, informed, mobile, and independent during a disaster. Remember that a disaster may require sheltering-in-place at home or evacuating to an emergency shelter or other form of temporary housing.
Plan to maintain your independence before an emergency strikes:
As you prepare, consider all the strategies, services, devices, tools and techniques you use to live with a disability on a daily basis. Keep in mind that you may need medications, durable medical equipment, consumable medical supplies, your service animal, assistive technology, communications tools, disability service providers, accessible housing, transportation, and health-related items.
- Create a support network to help you plan for an emergency. Consider family, neighbors, friends, people who provide services to you, faith-based and community groups. Tell these people where you keep your emergency supplies. Give at least one member of your support network a key to your house or apartment.
- Contact your city or county government's emergency information management office and work with them to use their emergency planning resources.
- If you receive dialysis or other life sustaining medical treatment, identify the location and availability of more than one facility and work with your provider to develop your personal emergency plan.
- Show others how to operate your wheelchair or other assistive devices.
- Keep contact information for local independent living centers and other disability services organizations in a safe and easy-to-access place. If you provide any organizations or service providers with information about your functional needs and what you may require in an emergency, keep that data up to date.
- If you use in-home support services, Meals-on-Wheels, Life Alert or other support services, work with them to personalize emergency preparedness plans to meet your needs so you can keep in touch with them during and after an emergency. That contact may be your lifeline to other services in a disaster.
- Work with local transportation and disability services (e.g., Paratransit, Independent Living Centers) to plan ahead for accessible transportation if you may need that for evacuation or other reasons during a disaster.
- Develop back-up plans for personal assistance services, hospice, or other forms of in-home assistance.
- Keep in mind that during an emergency, you may need to explain to first responders and emergency officials that you need to evacuate and shelter with your family, service animal, caregiver, or personal assistance provider so they can provide the support you need to maintain your health, safety and independence.
- If you receive federal disability benefits, register your bank account information in advance with the U.S. Department of the Treasury online at www.GoDirect.org so you can continue to access your money during an emergency.
- Arrange electronic payments for your federal benefits. Keep in mind a disaster can disrupt mail service for days or even weeks. For those who depend on the mail for their Social Security benefits, a difficult situation can become worse if you are evacuated or lose your mail service – as 85,000 check recipients learned after Hurricane Katrina. Switching to electronic payments is one simple, significant way people can protect themselves financially before disaster strikes. It also eliminates the risk of stolen checks.
- Keep in mind a disaster can disrupt mail service for days or even weeks. Consider direct deposit by calling the Go Direct toll-free helpline at (800) 333-1795 (trying to get TTY) or sign up at www.GoDirect.gov. Sponsored by U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Federal Reserve Banks, this option will ensure you get your social security or SSI payment on time each month.