For the millions of Americans who have physical, medical, sensory or cognitive disabilities, emergencies such as fires, floods and acts of terrorism may present special challenges. The same challenge also applies to the elderly and other special needs populations. Officials of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Washington Emergency Management Division (WEMD) are urging residents of Washington state to be prepared.
Disasters may increase hardships for seniors and people with disabilities. They are in the best position to plan for their own safety, as they are best able to know their own functional abilities and possible needs during and after an emergency or disaster. Emergencies and disasters can strike quickly and without warning and may force people to evacuate their neighborhoods or confine them to their homes.
To be ready, officials urge seniors and people with disabilities to:
- Make prior arrangements with your physician or check with your oxygen supplier about emergency plans for those on respirators or other electric-powered medical equipment.
- Be sure to have electrical backup for any medical equipment.
- Maintain a two-week supply of medications, both prescription and non-prescription.
- Have copies of your medical records readily available.
- Have copies of prescriptions for medical equipment, supplies and medications on hand readily available.
- Keep extra contact lenses and supplies, extra eyeglasses and extra batteries for hearing aids.
- Make plans now to have accessible transportation in case of evacuation.
- Shelters may be limited in accommodations to meet some of the needs of those with disabilities. Prepare ahead of time to ensure that you will have what you need.
- Include your service animals and pets in your plans.
In addition, people with special needs should organize a network of assistance that includes care attendants, neighbors, friends, relatives and co-workers at home, school, work place, volunteer sites and any other places where they spend a lot of time. People should find out about special assistance that may be available in their community through their local emergency management coordinator.
See Emergency Preparedness for Disabilities for links to dozens of other relevant resources.