Living in Florida can feel like we’re living in a tranquil paradise. Despite that common perception, Floridians live with the real threat of hurricanes. To ensure our safety during these natural disasters, it’s important that we are prepared for the worst situation possible. Effective disaster preparation takes these factors into account, and should include building an emergency kit, making a plan, and staying informed. When preparing for a hurricane, and because of limitations related to accessibility and functional needs, people with disabilities and their families should take extra care to prepare for hurricanes. Here are some resources, provided by FEMA, that can help prepare you, including: general tips, emergency kits, service animals, as well as tips for people with certain conditions and Special Needs Shelters.
General Tips for Everyone
Create a support network and maintain contact with those who can assist you. Keep a contact list in a watertight container, located in your emergency kit. Click here to learn more.
It’s extremely important for you to make a plan. Where will you go if you are ordered to evacuate? If you’ll need to stay at a Special Needs Shelter, you are required to pre-register. More information regarding this precaution is contained in this blog.
Inform your support network of your emergency supplies, and where you keep them. You may want to give a key to someone in your support network, so that she/he can access your house or apartment in case of an emergency.
In preparation for evacuation, make plans to arrange accessible transportation, or go to a medical clinic. To identify local or private accessible transportation options, local services, public transportation, or paratransit, should be able to assist you.
For individuals who are undergoing dialysis, know the location of more than one facility, and check their availability. If you need dialysis or other life-sustaining treatments, familiarize yourself with the location of multiple facilities.
If a power outage occurs, be sure that you take the proper precautions to continue using your medical equipment.
Just in case, be sure to wear medical alert tags or bracelets.
If your disability affects your ability to communicate, plan out a method for expressing that to strangers. In case of an emergency, it might be a good idea to have a typed or written letter describing the nature of your physical limitation(s) and health.
For those who use assistive technology or mobility devices, creating a plan will save you a lot of time and headache. Assistive devices are extremely important to your well being, so be sure you know how to replace equipment if it gets lost or destroyed. In the event that your equipment needs to be replaced, Custom Mobility would be happy to offer you assistance. To make the process as smooth as possible, be sure to have information on the make and model of your mobility equipment. In addition, please note who provided it, including Medicaid, Medicare, or private insurance.
In case of an emergency, service animals and/or pets need special attention.
If you must evacuate your home, whenever possible, be sure to take your pets and service animals. Just like you, your pet will need food, water, identification tags, and supplies.
For more information on sheltering with your service animal or pet, click here.
Whether you shelter-in-place, move to another location, or move to a shelter, it’s extremely important to prepare emergency kits. Wherever you’ll be, your emergency kit should include:
- Medications and medical equipment.
- Be sure that your supply will last you a minimum of two weeks.
- Contacts and insurance cards of your medical provider.
- Social security card, photo ID, emergency contacts.
- Special food for those who have dietary restrictions.
Cash or traveler’s checks in case you need to purchase supplies.
For more information regarding emergency kits, click here.
Tips for people who are Deaf or hard of hearing
In case you lose power, weather radios are essential for staying current with weather updates and important news. There are models of weather radios that have text displays and flashing lights for alerts. Carrying extra batteries for this device is always a great idea.
If you use a hearing aid, it is extremely important to carry extra batteries. Be sure to store them in a plastic bag.
A text phone, also known as a TTY device, can help you contact somebody in case of an emergency. It could assist in communicating with loved ones, and would allow you to call 911.
Be sure to bring pens and paper, just in case you have to communicate with a person who doesn’t understand sign language
Tips for People who are blind or have low vision
By marking emergency supplies with Braille labels or large print, they’ll be easier for you to find. To notify others, keep a list of your emergency supplies on a portable flash drive, or create an audio file that is kept in a safe and accessible place.
Be sure that your emergency supply kit includes a Braille, or Deaf-Blind communications device.
To prevent confusion in the midst of turmoil, be preemptive by practicing your evacuation route. You want to make sure that you’ll be comfortable getting to your family’s meeting point or to a shelter.
Tips for People with a physical or mobility disability
If you are power wheelchair user, it’s important to have a reliable, backup solution. If you lose power, a manual wheelchair may be your best option for mobility. In case you encounter an emergency situation, make sure that your support network understands how to operate your power and manual wheelchairs.
If you require assistance to evacuate, it is important to know the size and weight of your wheelchair.
If your wheelchair is collapsible, be sure to notify your support system. This feature may make it easier to transport.
For individuals who use mobility devices such as canes or walkers, if possible, bring an extra.
Specialized seat cushions are important for those who need them to protect their skin or maintain their balance. In cases where you must evacuate without your wheelchair, be sure to remember to bring your cushion.
Tips for children and adults with autism
New surroundings and emergency situations can be extremely stressful for children with autism. Familiar items can help them adjust to new surroundings and ease the stress of the transition. Remember to pack their favorite toys, movies, and computer games.
Unfamiliar settings may seem too noisy. Headphones or earplugs can dampen the sounds of an unfamiliar setting. If your family must evacuate to an emergency shelter, it would be a good idea to mark the perimeters of your family’s assigned space with duct tape.
Children with autism often wander away. As you develop safety plans for protecting children in emergency situations, coordinate with teachers, police, and community members.
Tips for people with a mental health condition
It can be difficult to manage the stress of an emergency situation. Be ready to provide important information that’s unique to you. If necessary, feel free to write or type any of this information. Be sure to keep that information with you. For example: “I have a mental health condition, and may become confused in an emergency. Please help me find a quiet place. I will be okay shortly.”
Special Needs Shelter Program
If you don’t have a safe to go during a hurricane, Special Needs Shelters can accommodate your needs; however, you must register to be eligible.
A Special Needs Shelter (SpNS) is for "someone who, during periods of evacuation or emergency, requires sheltering assistance, due to physical impairment, mental impairment, cognitive impairment, or sensory disabilities.” The Florida Department of Health and the Bureau of Preparedness and Response, administers a statewide Special Needs Shelter Program. It is designed to assist County Health Departments and their attempts to address the special medical needs of people in their
For more information or to register, click here.
For additional information, click here.
Mary Carol Peterson