Getting ready for a disaster for people with disabilities

Dec. 3 is the International Day of People with Disability, organized by the United Nations. With more than 1 billion people around the globe living with some form of disability, the observance is an opportunity to promote understanding and raise awareness — including awareness of preparedness needs for people with disabilities.

An emergency can happen anywhere and anytime. Local officials may order an evacuation, or you may need to take shelter from a tornado. That's why it's critical that all people take steps to protect themselves and make sure they can stay safe and healthy. If you have a disability, there are a few extra tips you should keep in mind to get prepared.

A good place to start is with information. APHA’s Get Ready campaign has created a series of fact sheets for people with disabilities to help prepare for emergencies. The fact sheets offer basic information as well as specific tips for people with hearing, vision, mobility and cognitive disabilities.

Determining the type of disaster most likely to occur in your community will help you design an effective plan. Create a communication plan to help you and your loved ones connect and get help during a disaster. If you have a disability, discuss what help you may need before, during and after an emergency with members of your family, friends, caregivers or neighbors.

Everyone should have basic supplies in their preparedness kit, including flashlights, batteries, a first-aid kit and food and water to last at least three days. But if you have a disability, you may need extra supplies. For example, your emergency kit might require extra batteries for your hearing aid, a tire patch kit for your wheelchair, or an extra battery for your scooter.

Here are a few more tips from our fact sheets:
  • If you have a motorized wheelchair and it is feasible and you are able, practice moving around with alternative devices such as a cane, walker or manual wheelchair in case of a power outage.
  • If you are deaf or hard of hearing, be ready to communicate with emergency responders by preparing pre-written notes such as “I need a sign language interpreter.”
  • Don’t forget to include emergency stockpile kit plastic bags in your stockpile to dispose of your service dog’s waste.
Visit our disability preparedness page to read the fact sheets, listen to recordings or watch in ASL.





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