Persons with Disabilities

If you or someone close to you has a disability and other access and functional needs, you may have to take additional steps to protect yourself and your family in an emergency.

   

During a disaster, your ways of support may not be available to you, therefore, it is important to have a strong support network.   And the more you can prepare and practice for an emergency situation, the more likely it is that you will be able to successfully deal with and recover from a disaster. Remember that a disaster may require sheltering-in-place at home or evacuating to an emergency shelter or other form of temporary housing.

  • Create a support network.  Give someone from your network a key to your house or apartment and let them know where you keep your emergency supplies.
  • If you receive dialysis or other life sustaining medical treatment, identify the location and availability of more than one facility and work with your provider to develop your personal emergency plan.
  • Show others how to operate your wheelchair or other assistive devices.
  • Keep contact information for local independent living centers and other disability services organizations in a safe and easy-to-access place. If you provide any organizations or service providers with information about your functional needs and what you may require in an emergency, keep that data up to date.
  • Keep at least a seven-day supply of essential medications with you at all times—longer, if possible. Work with your doctor(s) to get extra supplies of medications and extra copies of prescriptions. Determine how often you should replace stored medication. This helps ensure that a medicine's effectiveness does not weaken because of long storage time.
  • Install at least one smoke detector on each level of your home, outside sleeping areas. If you are hearing impaired, install a system that has flashing strobe lights to get your attention.

Be ready to evacuate

  • Work with local transportation and disability services (e.g., Paratransit, Independent Living Centers) to plan ahead for accessible transportation if you may need that for evacuation or other reasons during a disaster.
  • Develop back-up plans for personal assistance services, hospice, or other forms of in-home assistance.
  • Keep in mind that during an emergency, you may need to explain to first responders and emergency officials that you need to evacuate and shelter with your family, service animal, caregiver, or personal assistance provider so they can provide the support you need to maintain your health, safety and independence.
  • Keep your service animals with you in a safe place at home, or take them with you to a shelter. Service animals are allowed in hotels or motels and Red Cross shelters. However, these places cannot care for your animal. When you leave your home, remember to take a collar, harness, identification tags, records of vaccinations, medications, and food for your service animal with you.
  • If you are mobility impaired and live or work in a high-rise building, have an escape chair.
  • Be sure to make provisions for medications that require refrigeration.
  • Wear medical alert tags or bracelets to identify your disability.

Additional Items for Emergency Supply Kit

Consider adding theses items to your Emergency Supply Kit based on your needs.

  • Extra eyeglasses, hearing aids if you have them, or have coverage for them
  • Battery chargers and extra batteries for hearing aids, motorized wheelchairs, or other battery-operated medical or assistive technology devices
  • Copies of medical prescriptions, doctors orders, and the style and serial numbers of the support devices you use
  • Medical alert tags or bracelets or written descriptions of your disability and support needs, in case you are unable to describe the situation in an emergency
  • Supplies for your service animal Medical insurance cards, Medicare/Medicaid cards, physician contact information, list of your allergies and health history
  • A list of the local non-profit or community-based organizations that know you or assist people with access and functional needs similar to yours.
  • A list of personal contacts, family and friends that you may need to contact in an emergency
  • A laminated personal communication board, if you might need assistance with being understood
  • If possible, extra medicine, oxygen, insulin, catheters, or other medical supplies you use regularly
  • If you use a motorized wheelchair, have a light weight manual chair available for emergencies. Know the size and weight of your wheelchair, in addition to whether or not it is collapsible, in case it has to be transported.
  • Even if you do not use a computer yourself, consider putting important information onto a portable thumb drive for easy transport in an evacuation.

Finances

  • If you receive federal disability benefits, register your bank account information in advance with the U.S. Department of the Treasury online at www.GoDirect.org so you can continue to access your money during an emergency.
  • Arrange electronic payments for your federal benefits. Keep in mind a disaster can disrupt mail service for days or even weeks. For those who depend on the mail for their Social Security benefits, a difficult situation can become worse if you are evacuated or lose your mail service – as 85,000 check recipients learned after Hurricane Katrina. Switching to electronic payments is one simple, significant way people can protect themselves financially before disaster strikes. It also eliminates the risk of stolen checks.
  • The Direct Express® prepaid debit card is designed as a safe and easy alternative to paper checks for people who don’t have a bank account. Sign up is easy, call toll-free at (877) 212-9991 (phone), (866) 569-0447(TTY) or sign up online at www.USDirectExpress.com. Signing up for direct deposit or the Direct Express card is a simple but important step that can help protect your family’s access to funds in case the unthinkable were to happen. If you or those close to you are still receiving Social Security or other federal benefits by check, please consider switching to one of these safer, easier options today.
  • Keep in mind a disaster can disrupt mail service for days or even weeks. Consider direct deposit by calling the Go Direct toll-free helpline at (800) 333-1795 (trying to get TTY) or sign up at www.GoDirect.gov. Sponsored by U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Federal Reserve Banks, this option will ensure you get your social security or SSI payment on time each month.