Do you or a family member have a disability? Are you responsible for the care of a senior citizen? Do you have small children who require special attention and supplies? If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” then you should consider now what extra steps are needed in your family’s disaster plan.
Everyone, including people with disabilities, should take time before a disaster to plan for survival at home, in a shelter, or elsewhere in the event of an actual emergency. “Disaster preparedness is not a ‘one size fits all’ concept,” said Federal Coordinating Officer Gracia Szczech. “People with special needs may require special attention and preparation. Everyone needs to get a kit, make a plan and be informed.”
Considerations for people responsible for disabled individuals:
If you have a service animal, be sure to include food, water, identification tags and supplies. And if you have a communication disability, make sure your emergency information indicates the best way to communicate with you. It also is important to have cash or travelers checks in your kit in case you need to purchase supplies.
Considerations for those with small children:
Considerations for those responsible for the care of senior citizens:
Your Personal Support Network
An emergency plan for someone with special needs begins with a personal support network. Make a list of family, friends and others who assist you on a daily basis. Talk with them and decide who will help you in an emergency.
If you undergo routine treatments by a clinic, hospital or home health worker, talk to them about your emergency plans. With their help, identify backup service providers within your area and where you may evacuate. If you use medical equipment that requires electricity to operate, talk with your health care provider about preparing for a power outage.
Consider your transportation needs and every aspect of your daily routine then come up with a written plan. Share your plan with everyone in your support network. Be sure to include a friend or relative in another area who would not be affected by the same emergency.
Depending on your circumstances and the nature of the emergency, one of the first important decisions is whether you stay or go. If you are specifically told to evacuate or seek medical treatment, do so immediately. Otherwise monitor news bulletins and make your decision accordingly. In some cases it may be safer to shelter in place. If you must evacuate to a public shelter, only service animals will be allowed inside. You will need to make other arrangements for your pets.
Contact Brevard County Emergency Operation Center (www.embrevard.com or (321) 637-6670) as you draw up your emergency plan. Their office maintains a registery of people with medical disabilities who, if emergency sheltering is required, can be accommodated at a special needs shelter staffed with medical personnel. For people with disabilities, they can also arrange transportation to a shelter facility. Pre-registration is required.
Learn more about the potential emergencies where you live and the appropriate way to respond to them. Florida is prone to natural disasters such as floods, thunderstorms, tornadoes, and hurricanes. For Americans, preparedness also must account for man-made disasters including bio-hazards, chemical spills or terrorist attacks.
Arm yourself with information. Research what emergency plans have been established in your area by your state and local government. Contact your local emergency manager or:
Be prepared to adapt information you receive to your personal circumstances. If you start now, you will be ready and confident whenever disaster strikes.
GET A KIT. GET A PLAN. BE INFORMED.