For the millions of Americans with mobility problems, emergencies such as fires and floods present a special challenge. Protecting yourself and your family when disaster strikes requires planning ahead. This checklist will help you get started. Discuss these ideas with your family, friends, or a personal care attendant, and prepare an emergency plan. Post the plan where everyone will see it.
Call your local emergency management office or Red Cross chapter.
- Ask what kind of disasters could occur in your area and how to prepare for each.
- Ask how you would be warned of an emergency.
- Ask about special assistance that may be available to you in an emergency. Many communities ask people with a disability to register, usually with the local fire department or emergency management office, so needed help can be provided quickly in an emergency.
- Ask your supervisor about emergency plans at your workplace.
- Ask your childrens' teachers and caregivers about emergency plans for schools and day-care centers.
- If you currently use a personal care attendant obtained from an agency, check to see if the agency has special provisions for emergencies (e.g. providing services at another location should an evacuation be ordered).
Create a Plan
- Meet with household members or your personal care attendant. Discuss the dangers of fire, severe weather, earthquakes, and other emergencies that might occur in your community.
- Determine what you will need to do for each type of emergency. For example, most people head for a basement when there is a tornado warning, but most basements are not wheelchair-accessible. Determine in advance what your alternative shelter will be and how you will get there.
- Post emergency telephone numbers near telephones and teach your children how and when to call for help.
- Learn what to do in case of power outages and personal injuries. Know how to connect or start a back-up power supply for essential medical equipment.
- If you or someone in your household uses a wheelchair, make more than one exit from your home wheelchair-accessible in case the primary exit is blocked in a disaster.
- Teach those who may need to assist you in an emergency how to operate necessary equipment.
- Arrange for a relative or neighbor to check on you in an emergency.
- Learn how to turn off the water, gas, and electricity at main valves or switches.
- Plan and practice how to escape from your home in an emergency.
- Consider getting a medical alert system that will allow you to call for help if you are immobilized in an emergency.
- If you live in an apartment, ask the management to identify and mark accessible exits.
- Learn your community's evacuation routes.
- Listen to a battery-operated radio for emergency information.
- Pick one out-of-state and one local friend or relative for family members to call if separated by disaster.
- Pick two meeting places: 1) A place near your home in case of fire. 2) A place outside your neighborhood in case you cannot return home after a disaster.
- Keep family records in a watertight, fire-proof container