- Know what disasters could affect your area, which could call for an evacuation and when to shelter in place.
- Keep a NOAA Weather Radio tuned to your local emergency station and monitor TV and radio. Follow mobile alerts and warnings about severe weather in your area.
- Download the FEMA app and get weather alerts from the National Weather Service for up to five different locations anywhere in the United States.
Make a Plan
How might a disaster affect you? Could you make it on your own for at least three days? After a disaster you may not have access to a medical facility or even a drugstore. It’s crucial to plan for your regular needs and know what you would do if they become limited or unavailable. Additional planning steps should include:
- Your locality may have a Special Needs Registry to ensure the needs of people with disabilities are met during an emergency. Contact your local authorities for information. Create a support network. Keep a contact list in a watertight container in your emergency kit.
- Be ready to explain to first responders that you need to evacuate and choose to go to a shelter with your family, service animal, caregiver, personal assistant and your assistive technology devices and supplies.
- Plan ahead for accessible transportation that you may need for evacuation or getting to a medical clinic. Work with local services, public transportation or paratransit to identify your local or private accessible transportation options.
- Inform your support network where you keep your emergency supplies. You may want to consider giving one member a key to your house or apartment.
- Contact your city or county government’s emergency management agency or office. Many local offices keep lists of people with disabilities so they can be helped quickly in a sudden emergency.
- If you are dependent on dialysis or other life-sustaining treatment know the location and availability of more than one facility.
- If you use medical equipment in your home that requires electricity, talk to your doctor or health care provider about how you can prepare for its use during a power outage.
- Wear medical alert tags or bracelets.
- If you have a communication disability make sure your emergency information says the best way to communicate with you.
- If you use an augmentative communications device or other assistive technologies, plan how you will evacuate with the devices or how you will replace equipment if lost or destroyed. Keep model numbers and note where the equipment came from (Medicaid, Medicare, private insurance, etc.).
- Plan how you will communicate with others if your equipment is not working, including laminated cards with phrases, pictures or pictograms.
- Keep Braille/text communication cards, if used, for two-way communication.
- Get preparedness tips for diabetics.
- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ online tool helps people locate and access their electronic health records from a variety of sources.
- Plan for children with disabilities and people who may have difficulty in unfamiliar or chaotic environments.
Get Your Benefits Electronically
A disaster can disrupt mail service for days or weeks. If you depend on Social Security or other regular benefits, switching to electronic payments is a simple, significant way to protect yourself financially before disaster strikes. It also eliminates the risk of stolen checks. The U.S. Department of the Treasury recommends two safer ways to get federal benefits:
- Direct deposit to a checking or savings account. If you get federal benefits you can sign up by calling 800-333-1795 or sign up online.
- The Direct Express® prepaid debit card is designed as a safe and easy alternative to paper checks. Call toll-free at 877-212-9991 or sign up online.
Build a Kit
In addition to having your basic survival supplies, an emergency kit should have items to meet your individual needs in various emergencies. Consider the items you use on a daily basis and which ones you may need to add to your kit.
Tips for People Who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing
- A weather radio (with text display and a flashing alert)
- Extra hearing-aid batteries
- A TTY
- Pen and paper (in case you have to communicate with someone who does not know sign language)
Tips for People Who are Blind or Have Low Vision
- Mark emergency supplies with Braille labels or large print. Keep a list of your emergency supplies and where you bought them on a portable flash drive or make an audio file that is kept in a safe place where you can access it.
- Keep a Braille or deaf-blind communications device as part of your emergency supply kit.
Tips for People with Speech Disability
- If you use an augmentative communications device or other assistive technologies plan how you will evacuate with the devices or how you will replace equipment if it is lost or destroyed. Keep model information and note where the equipment came from (Medicaid, Medicare, private insurance, etc.).
- Plan how you will communicate with others if your equipment is not working, including laminated cards with phrases and/or pictogram.
Tips for People with a Mobility Disability
- If you use a power wheelchair have a lightweight manual chair available as a backup if possible. Know the size and weight of your wheelchair in addition to whether or not it is collapsible, in case it has to be transported.
- Show others how to operate your wheelchair.
- Purchase an extra battery for a power wheelchair or other battery-operated medical or assistive technology devices. If you can’t purchase an extra battery, find out what agencies, organizations or local charitable groups can help you buy one. Keep extra batteries on a trickle charger at all times.
- Consider keeping a patch kit or can of sealant for flat tires and/or extra inner tube if wheelchair or scooter is not puncture proof.
- Keep an extra mobility device such as a cane or walker if you use one.
- If you use a seat cushion to protect your skin or maintain your balance and you must evacuate without your wheelchair, take your cushion with you.
Tips for Individuals Who May Need Behavioral Support
- Plan for children with disabilities and people who may have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), who may have difficulty in unfamiliar or chaotic environments.
This may include:
- Handheld electronic devices (loaded with movies and games)
- Spare chargers
- Sheets and twine or a small pop up tent (to decrease visual stimulation in a busy room or to provide instant privacy)
- Headphones (to decrease auditory distractions)
- Comfort snacks
- Toys (to meet needs for stimulation)
- At least a week-long supply of prescription medicines
- A list of all medications, dosage and any allergies
- Extra eyeglasses
- Extra hearing-aid batteries
- Extra wheelchair batteries (or a manual wheelchair if possible)
- A list of the style and serial number of medical devices (include special instructions for operating your equipment if needed)
- Copies of medical insurance and Medicare cards
- Contact information for doctors, relatives or friends who should be notified if you are hurt
- Ice for refrigerating medications
- Sensory items, such as fidget spinners, earplugs, etc.
- A Medical Alert System, which can alert others of a medical emergency through a landline or cell service
- Pet food, extra water, collar with ID tag, medical records and other supplies for your service animal