Emergency Preparedness for People with Mobility Issues

When a disaster strikes, it can present a host of problems but when you’re faced with mobility challenges, it can be a nightmare. Understanding what your options are before a disaster strikes can make a difference in helping you to plan, prepare and receive the help and assistance you need instead of risking injury or harm to get to safety when the actual event occurs.

Understanding the Disasters That Can Impact Your Community

Your first steps for preparation are being aware of what disasters are native to your community. If you live in the Southeastern portion of the United States, you are most likely prone to hurricanes. If you live in the Northeast, you could face blizzards or extreme temperatures, and if you live in California, you are at the risk of experiencing an earthquake. The following map from www.crisishq.com shows what areas of the continental United States are prone to specific disasters:

Natural Disaster Risk Map

Knowing what disasters are common in your area can help you better prepare in the event it actually happens. When a disaster strikes, you may lose some or all of your basic services like running water, electricity, phone, internet, or natural gas. This could significantly impact your safety and living situation. If your area is prone to wildfires, flooding or hurricanes, you may even be forced to evacuate.

If you’re aware of potential dangers before they happen, you can create a more comprehensive plan for when they do. This will help you to avoid having to make last minute decisions or risk harm or injury to protect yourself or your home.

Having a Select List of Emergency Contacts

Having a list of emergency contacts will serve more than one purpose in case of an emergency.

One reason to have a list of emergency contacts handy is so that in the event a disaster strikes or is imminent, you can easily get in touch with someone who can assist you. Whether you need someone to help you evacuate or someone to stay with you and assist you with mobility issues until the danger passes, the more quickly you are likely to receive the help you need.

It will also be important for you to be in contact with close friends or family members. Not only will it help you to be in touch with loved ones but it will also allow you to have a lifeline in case you need assistance during or after the emergency has passed. It will also give you and your loved ones peace of mind to be able to stay in contact with you.

You will want to have emergency contacts in all aspects of your life. If you are still in the workplace or attend classes outside of the home, it will be important for you to have contacts at those locations who can assist you in case of an emergency. The individuals on your contact list should be trustworthy and have a full understanding of your limitations so they know how best to assist you.

If you have an in-home care provider who you depend on for regular assistance, it will also be important for you to have their information close by in case a disaster or emergency prevents them from coming for their regularly scheduled visit. You will want to discuss with them what their disaster procedures are ahead of time in case you need to make other arrangements if they are unable to reach you.

It may also be a good idea to be in touch with a neighbor or someone who is close in proximity to your residence who can check in with to you to make sure you aren’t injured or in need of medical attention in case of emergency.

Ready-to-Go Bag & Emergency Supplies

These are the two sets of supplies you should always have on hand in case of an emergency.

You should always have a set of emergency supplies on hand and ready to go with you at a moment’s notice. The emergency supplies need to be easily accessible in case you need to evacuate and leave your residence quickly. Regardless of the situation, you should always have an emergency first-aid kit within arms reach in case you are injured during a natural disaster event. You can place items in a backpack or small duffle bag that are durable and preferably waterproof. The ideal location would be to have it attached to your wheelchair, scooter, or walker especially if a disaster occurs when you’re away from home.

The types of items in your ready-to-go bag should include:

  • Water Bottle, in case there is an emergency-related delay in transporting you to a shelter or safe location
  • Medications and medical supplies
  • Change of clothes
  • Batteries for motorized wheelchair or scooter
  • Power cord for cellular phone
  • Thick, heavy gloves in case you are required to wheel yourself through debris or broken glass
  • Food, plastic bags, and favorite toys for your service animal

You can purchase ready-to-go bags already prepared from the Red Cross or other disaster-related sites and customize them to your specific needs.

You should also have a designated emergency supply kit in a durable, waterproof container located within your home that is easily accessible in case you are confined to your home for an extended length of time. You can purchase emergency preparedness kits or create your own to meet your own specific needs.

In addition to the items listed for your Ready to Go Pack, your disaster kit should include:

  • Non-perishable food items like canned soup, fruits and vegetables, canned tuna or chicken, granola or protein bars
  • Can opener
  • Battery-operated radio
  • Flashlight
  • Extra batteries
  • Personal hygiene items
  • First aid kit
  • Water, one gallon per person for at least 2 weeks for drinking, cooking, and personal hygiene (don’t forget to account for additional water if you have a service animal or other animals in your home)

If you live in a warm climate or you have a medical emergency, you may require more water to meet your needs. The average drinking water bottle holds 16.9 ounces of water so about eight of them equal 1 gallon of water. If you purchase a large pack of water bottles that holds anywhere from 28 – 35 bottles of water, each pack would suffice for one person’s necessary water supply for about 72 hours. You can also purchase water purification tablets or emergency water pouches from online retailers or survival-based companies.

Having a ready-to-go pack and a disaster kit will help you to be prepared for any emergency whether you have to evacuate or you are forced to remain in your home. It will also ensure you have the necessary supplies to survive in case a disaster makes it difficult for a loved one or healthcare provider to bring important items to you.

For a more comprehensive list of what supplies to have on hand in case of emergency, the American Red Cross has additional information on how to prepare a Survival Kit.

Community Information

In the event of an emergency or disaster, you should be aware of the local city and county resources available to you that can provide you with assistance.
Once a disaster occurs, it may be difficult for you to get in touch with the necessary organizations or resources and it may be too late for you to get the help you need. Make sure you have the following information for the shelters available in your area:

  • Shelters that are closest to your residence, workplace and/or school
  • Service animal rules or restrictions
  • What shelters are ADA compliant
  • Is someone on their staff who can assist you, if needed

Knowing what resources are available to you in advance will help to prevent you from dangerous or stressful situations once an emergency or disaster occurs. Most city and county governments have ways you can keep in touch with them through email or social media. Signing up or registering for notifications is free and can help you find out what resources they provide as well as any updates or changes to those services.

National Organizations That Provide Assistance

In addition to local services, many national and government organizations will step in to help a community if a disaster occurs.
Some of these include:

The American Red Cross – the Red Cross provides assistance in finding a shelter nearby, signing up to let loved ones know you are safe, staying safe once an emergency has passed, and guides to help you prepare before, during and after a disaster.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) – FEMA also provides you with resources to help you prepare for a disaster. If an emergency has been declared in your area, they provide you with the tools necessary to apply for financial assistance and may enact search and rescue efforts depending on the severity and nature of the disaster.

You will also want to check for resources available to you from your state government in addition to local or county resources. If you have animals in the home that are not service animals, you may also want to be in contact with your local animal shelter or a Humane Society in your area to see if they can care for them in the event you have to evacuate.

The Best Plan is to Plan Ahead

Planning ahead is the best way to prepare for a disaster or emergency. Any unexpected event can be stressful and often presents increased danger to those who face mobility challenges. By discovering and using the resources available, you can create a plan to help you prepare so you know what to do in case an emergency occurs.

Once you create a plan or checklist, make sure you test it and have your friends or family members go through an emergency drill with you to ensure you haven’t left out anything important once an event actually happens. Practice at a minimum of once or twice a year to allow for any changes in your mobility or with those who will be providing you with assistance. FEMA provides information about creating a comprehensive plan as well as access to additional resources for emergency preparedness.

Another way to plan properly is to make sure that you have items within your home to help you with mobility in case the disaster makes it difficult or impossible for someone to assist you. You can install items like a stair lift or a lift chair that can help you remain mobile without needing assistance. For additional information, you can visit the Paralyzed Veterans of America site for assistance with accessibility and mobility resources.

To learn more, please reach out to us on our Contact Us page.