Emergency Preparedness for People with Disabilities

fountain pen lying on " Emergency Preparedness Checklist " form

A Brief Overview:

Preparing for an emergency is crucial for all families, especially those that have loved ones with special needs. Here is the general overview of the essentials:

  1. Educate yourself on the potential situations that may impact your family and community resources available if an emergency occurs.
  2. Make a personalized plan for your family.
  3. Create a disaster kit – food, water, medication, first aid, and more.
  4. Review the plan with your family and keep your kit updated.

Full Article

In any family, planning for an emergency is essential to reassuring the safety of all members. However, for families that have a loved one with a disability, additional planning may be needed to be sure everyone is taken care of. By informing yourself on your community’s emergency procedures, being proactive in your planning, gathering needed emergency supplies and staying updated on your personal and community plans, you can have the tools you need to make sure your family is out of harm’s way.

The first step to preparing for an emergency is to educate yourself on the potential situations that may impact your family. What natural disasters are possible within your area? How does your community inform the public of a potential emergency? Do you know about your community’s evacuation plans or emergency shelters? Knowing these questions early on can save you much needed time if a disaster occurs. In addition to this, you want to be informed on the emergency resources available in your area for people with disabilities. Is your family member dependent on electricity, transportation assistance, or medications? Speaking with your local community leaders and family healthcare team will be a great place to start to get the information you need to create the best emergency plan for you.

Once you have gathered enough information, you can begin making a personalized plan for your family. Your emergency plan will differ depending on the situation you are in, however there are some commonalities you can include in all variations. Creating escape routes accessible for everyone within your household, finding a meeting spot, communicating with your emergency contacts, and planning for pets are all options to begin thinking about. For members with a disability, talking to neighbors or nearby friends about storing medications or mobility assisting devices (i.e wheelchairs, crutches, etc.) is another method for assuring your needs are met when a disaster occurs. Having an open discussion with your family about things to expect is also encouraged. Your plan should include what steps to take before, during and after a disaster. Confirm that everyone is on the same page. If you need guidance creating your emergency plan, Family Voices offers additional tools and tips for creating a plan that works best for you. Other sites that have preparedness check lists are FEMA at and the American Red Cross. There are also some tools specific to individuals with Developmental Disabilities the following links can take you to several examples.

Emergency Preparedness Tool Kit for People with Disabilities by Partnership for People with Disabilities

FEMA – Preparing Makes Sense For People With Disabilities

Creating a disaster kit is pivotal to assure your safety in an emergency. Having adequate food and water supply, a first aid kit, extra clothing, sanitation, flashlight, batteries, medications, sleeping bags, and copies of important documents are a few of the necessary items to include in your kit. For families that have specific dietary restrictions or allergies, Amazon and Legacy Foods have some great resources for “out of the box” supplies such as gluten free and other dietary needs. Emergency Kits.comStealth Angel, and The Red Cross Store are some of the helpful sites available for finding the emergency preparation supplies already built or additional supplies to fit your needs. Be sure to store this in a safe and accessible place to prevent any damage.

When you are confident with your emergency plan and kit, it is important to continue reviewing your procedures with your family. Doing practice runs, updating your kit as needed, quizzing each other and staying involved in the community helps make sure that everyone is familiar and comfortable carrying out the plan if needed. Being prepared during an emergency takes time to perfect, but taking the necessary steps to plan ahead can reduce much of the stress if trouble arises.