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A Timely Conversation

A week ago last Saturday, as thousands of people evacuated their homes, fleeing California wildfires, the first reported fatality was a person with disabilities. Over the following days, her death sparked a conversation about emergency preparedness, specifically for people with disabilities, their family members, their caregivers, their neighbors, and their local emergency service providers.

Last Tuesday, Alice Wong of @DisVisibility hosted a twitter chat (click for the Storify version: #Prep4PWDs #NatlPrep), inviting people with disabilities (PwD) to share their experiences with disasters, emergency preparedness plans, tips for other PwD, and what they would like to see change in emergency services. Emergency service providers also shared resources to help families and individuals prepare for the unexpected.

Spinning off of that twitter chat, I’ve put together a list of things for you to think about as you prepare for possible emergencies and compiled a list of links to helpful resources.

Preparing for the unexpected

  • Think about some of the common major emergencies for the location in which you live. In my area, that would include tornadoes, fire, flooding, and electricity outages during winter storms, possibly others.
  • Select one item from the list above
    • Jot down a list of the things you need to have available that are unique to your particular needs. Perhaps that includes backup batteries or solar-powered chargers.
    • Ask yourself what your fears are in facing that kind of emergency.
    • Now list things you can do to address those possibilities.
  • Make a plan for how you’d handle that emergency. Ideas include: emergency kit in home and vehicles, stock prep. supplies for clean up and shelter/hygiene that are safe(r), hard-soled shoes and heavy-duty gas masks).
  • Contact your local emergency services (fire, EMS, rescue), your power company, your local law enforcement officials, to explain your situation. While registries should not be relied upon as your primary emergency plan, they can be help local agencies provide services in the event of a disaster.
  • Get to know your neighbors. While many PwD rely on family members to aid in times of emergencies, what about your neighbors — do you know who they are and how to get a hold of them quickly? Do you have social media connections that would be helpful (as in, local area connections)?
Participants in the twitter chat shared that evacuations were incredibly stressful, and that, while not always an option, pre-emptive evacuation is a good idea for folks who need consistent access to electricity.
While waiting until the last minute is not a good idea for anyone, waiting has a more significant impact on individuals with limitations.

Helpful resources to aid in your preparation:

Prepare to be the best person you can be in whatever circumstances arise.
Article: Emergency Preparedness Training — Plan ahead for safety during a disaster.
Preparing for Disaster for People with Disabilities and other Special Needs [pdf download] — This booklet helps people with disabilities prepare for all kinds of emergencies.
Disability Preparedness — Prepare, develop a plan, use assistive technologies, and understand your rights.
ADA Checklist for Emergency Shelters — Information for community providers responsible for providing emergency shelters
FEMA PreparAthon –a grassroots campaign to increase community preparedness and resilience.
These pages from FEMA are full of helpful PDF downloads and checklists to help you create your own emergency plan, communications plan, emergency kit, and help prepare your kids.
FEMA — Make a Plan, PwD — making an emergency plan, for people with disabilities
FEMA Preparathon — Make a Kit — take your plan to the next step
FEMA Preparathon — Kids — all the same information in an interactive comic form for just for kids!
FEMA — Family Communication’s Plan [pdf download] — fill-in-the blank printable worksheet

Katrina survivors share their experiences, and local resources share what changes they learned

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