Disaster Preparedness for People with Disabilities

The recent destruction of St. John’shospital in the Joplin tornado got me thinking about the particular needs of the sick and disabled in disaster situations. During times of disaster, it is vital to have a plan that fits the shape and needs of your family. For those who live or work with disabled people, or are themselves disabled, their emergency plan will need to look different. The American Red Cross emphasized the importance preparing everyone for disaster and emergencies. Here are some tips from the American Red Cross about creating a disaster preparedness plan for people with disabilities.


 There are some unique concerns for the disabled following a disaster:

  • Service animals, such as guide dogs, may be hurt or too frightened to work after a disaster. Scent markers that help them identify their homes may also be disturbed by disasters like fire or flood.
  • Debris and road blockages could leave people stranded at home and keep caregivers from reaching them.
  • For the visually impaired, familiar landmarks inside and outside of the home may move or be destroyed.
  • Because of possible utility damage, equipment dependent on power such as oxygen, suction devices, or home dialysis equipment, may be out of service.
  • Disaster-related stress may affect or agitate existing disabilities.
  • Disasters may affect usual levels of independence.

 To better prepare yourself, or the disabled person in your life, for a disaster, consider the following steps:

  • Create a personal support network
  • Complete a personal assessment of your needs
  • Collect information and take actions that will help you meet your needs during evacuations and after the disaster happens.
  • Gather essential supplies you will need during and after a disaster, especially those specific to your disability.
  • Make your home or office safer.

Learn more here.

If you are a hospital, nursing home, or medical center employee, encourage your workplace to evaluate their Ready Rating to be best prepared before disaster strikes.

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