Have you ever thought about what you would really do if a disaster struck near your home or office? Do you have an emergency plan with your friends, family members, or caregivers? Do you have more than one person who can help you if your primary aide is unavailable?
Not only have there been more natural disasters over the past few decades (The Federal Emergency Management Agency has documented a steady increase in natural disasters in the United States every year since 1996), but people with disabilities are more likely to be left behind or abandoned during evacuation in disasters and conflicts due to lack of preparation and planning.1
Globally, organizations are trying to change that. The United Nations Secretariat for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (SCRPD) wants people with disabilities to be considered in all future emergency preparation. SCRPD, which works to advance the rights of persons with disabilities worldwide, is currently advocating for governments to include people with disabilities in all stages of the disaster management process. (Read thisinteresting article to learn more.) But it’s also important that you take the necessary steps toensure you are prepared in case of an emergency.
1. Plan for your location: Think about the natural or manmade disasters that could most likely occur where you live. Plan for all seasons and events that could be local or widespread.
2. Have a food and water supply: Be sure you have at least a 3-day supply of food and water in your house for all occupants. In a large scale disaster it may be days, not hours, before first responders will be able to assist with evacuation.
3. Create a medical “go-kit”: Your kit should have a 7-day supply of medications and medical supplies (such as catheters or wound dressings), as well as clothing, and emergency phone numbers. Include a current, detailed medication list in case you need to obtain replacements away from home.
4. Replace batteries: Maintain smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and keep a working flashlight and battery-operated radio in an accessible location. Be sure to replace the batteries every year.
5. Look for the exits: Be aware of your surroundings and be prepared with at least 2 exit routes from your home or workplace. 4. Bring essential equipment: If you are facing evacuation the center where you end up may not have the necessary equipment you need (lifts, specialized seating). If you have time and assistance, bring these items with you when you evacuate.
6. Let others know about your ventilator or oxygen needs: If you are dependent on a ventilator or oxygen for any part of the day, contact your fire department and your local electric company to make them aware of your needs. In many areas first responders maintain a list of those individual with special medical needs in case of emergency. Further, the electric company may prioritize your power due to medical necessity.
Get Involved. Your area likely has an Office of Emergency Management. The best way to be sure that they are aware of your unique needs is to get involved. Join a planning committee or volunteer to participate in a training exercise. Both you and the first responders will benefit from your involvement. The best way to stay safe is to prepare a plan and communicate with those you love.