What Will You Need During a Disaster?
If You Need...
- Hearing or vision devices (including glasses)
- Medication or medical devices
- Special food due to dietary restrictions
- Translation or interpretation services
- Public transportation
- Public assistance for food and health services
- Help from a caretaker
- Regular support from behavioral health or medical professionals
If You're Responsible For...
- Infants or small children
- An older adult or someone with physical challenges
- Someone with physical, behavioral, or cognitive health issues
- Pets or livestock
You May Need Extra Planning
If you have additional needs, it may be more difficult to leave an area quickly, live without running water or electricity, get information and resources, and generally get your needs met. Think about your daily activities and how a disaster will impact your life. What can you do on your own? How would you need assistance? Who could help you?
You May Need Extra Time
Floods, fires, and other dangers can spread quickly and force us to leave our homes or neighborhoods. Some of us need extra time or assistance to evacuate. We need to be ready and take action sooner rather than later.
Pay close attention to the messages of public officials. Stay informed, and make sure you're signed up for PublicAlerts. If evacuation orders are being issued anywhere near your home, make sure you're ready. Do what makes sense for your situation. If you think you'll need a lot of time, leave early.
Organize, Protect, and Plan
About half of all Americans take a prescription medicine every day. An emergency can make it difficult for them to refill their prescription or to find an open pharmacy. If you rely on medications, organize them, protect them, and plan ahead.
- Organize: Keep a list of your medicines in your emergency kit. Include information about your diagnosis, dosage, frequency, medical supply needs, and allergies.
- Protect: If needed, include a cooler and chemical ice packs to chill medicines that need to be refrigerated.
- Plan: Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about how you can create an emergency supply of medicines. Learn about your state’s emergency prescription refill law and how it can help you prepare.
Have an Outage Plan
No one can predict when an outage might happen. If you depend on life-support or other medical equipment or refrigeration for life-sustaining medications, it’s important that you’re prepared.
That may include owning a backup generator or making sure you have a way to relocate temporarily during an extended outage. It also means having an outage kit and communication plan in place. The resources below are excellent guides for making an outage plan.
- Power Outages and Medical Needs (Portland General Electric)
- Emergency Power Planning for People Who Use Electricity and Battery-Dependent Assistive Technology and Medical Devices (ADA National Network)
- Power Outage Planning & Disabilities (Facebook Group)
Arthritis: Emergency Preparedness: Special Considerations for People with Rheumatoid Arthritis (Hospital for Special Surgery)
Blood Disorder: Emergency Preparedness Info for People with Blood Disorders (Centers for Disease Control)
Cancer: How to Get Ready for a Natural Disaster When You Have Cancer (American Cancer Society)
Diabetes: Disaster Resources for People Living with Diabetes (Diabetes Disaster Response Coalition)
Dialysis: Preparing for Emergencies: A Guide for People on Dialysis (Kidney Community Emergency Response)
Epilepsy: Epilepsy & Disaster Preparedness (Centers for Disease Control)
Oxygen Dependence: Respiratory/Oxygen Users Disaster Evacuation Planning Guide (No Person Left Behind)
Sleep Disorder: How to Prepare for an Emergency or Disaster When You Have Sleep Disorder (American Thoracic Society)
Ventilator: Ventilator Respiratory Disaster Planning Guide (Linda R. Carter)
Have an emergency "go bag" packed at all times. Consider these additional items:
- If you're pregnant: nutritious high-protein foods, maternity and baby clothes, prenatal vitamins, other medications, extra bottled water, emergency birth supplies (clean towels, sharp scissors, infant bulb syringe, medical gloves, two white shoelaces, sheets, sanitary pads, two blankets), and closed-toe shoes.
- If you have an infant: baby carrier or sling, thermometer, bulb syringe, copies of vaccination records, antibacterial wipes, hand sanitizer, dish soap, portable crib, baby food in pouches or jars, baby blankets, extra baby clothes and shoes (if baby is walking), diapers, wipes, rash cream, medications and infant pain reliever, nursing pads, small disposable cups, ready-to-feed formula in single serving cans or bottles (if necessary).
- If you have small children: books, games, puzzles, or other ways to stay entertained, a favorite stuffed animal or blanket, identification to be carried by each child in case you become separated. Before an emergency, involve children in preparedness planning.
- If you have a child with special needs: current medical information, current copy of your child’s Care Plan, special foods, medications, and equipment, adapters and batteries to power small electrical equipment, medical alert bracelet.
- Strollers may not be easy to use when there is debris on the ground. A baby carrier or sling is helpful for getting around.
Infant Care and Feeding During Disasters
- Breast milk is naturally clean, helps protect your infant from illnesses, and can provide comfort to both you and your baby. If you are a mom who relies on pumped milk, make sure you know how to express your milk by hand and feed your baby with a cut. Breast pumps can't be cleaned without clean water, and milk can't be stored without refrigeration. Breastfeeding mothers can continue to make milk during stressful events such as disasters. It's important that nursing mothers get extra food and fluids, but even moms who have gone without food can breastfeed.
- Keep your baby warm and close. This will provide extra protection and comfort for your baby.
- It can be harder to feed babies with ready-to-feed formula during a disaster. Clean water may not be available for mixing with powdered formula or for cleaning bottles and nipples. Feeding your baby with a small disposable cup is easier. Even tiny babies can use a cup. Unused formula can't be refrigerated during a power outage. Small containers of formula work best.
- Infant and Young Child Feeding in Emergencies Toolkit (CDC)
- Infant Feeding in Emergencies (RDPO)
- Emergency Information Form for Children With Special Needs (American Academy of Pediatrics)
It is especially important to have a robust emergency plan for children with disabilities and medical needs. Keep current paper copies of your child's care plan in your emergency kit. Give a copy to every person involved in your child's care. View our Include Children page to learn about involving children in emergency preparedness and understanding their unique needs before, during, and after a disaster.
Prepare with Community
- Contact your local fire department or Emergency Medical Services (EMS) agency to have them get to know your child.
- Sign up for emergency alerts.
- Contact power and water companies for early alerts and priority service restoration.
- Talk to other families with disabilities and share disaster readiness ideas.
Prepare with Schools
- Include emergency instructions as part of your child's Individual Education Plan (IEP).
- Know where and how the school will help your child in an emergency.
- Send your child to school with an In-Case-of-Emergency Card and Medical Alert Bracelet.
- Be Ready: Tips for Families of Children and Youth with Special Healthcare Needs (Emergency Medical Services for Children)
Have an emergency "go bag" packed at all times. It should contain:
- Medicine to last at least 14 days. Store them in original containers. Include a list of the types of medications, dosage, frequency, and the name(s) of prescribing doctor(s).
- Medical supplies for at least 14 days, including bandages, ostomy bags, tubing, syringes, etc.
- Copies of vital medical papers, such as insurance cards, power of attorney, etc.
Electrically-Powered Medical Equipment
- Some medical equipment requires electrical power (beds, breathing equipment, infusion pumps, etc.). Ask your medical supply company about possible back-up power sources, such as batteries or generators.
- If you use oxygen, tanks should be securely braced so they don't fall over. Ask your medical supply company about bracing instructions.
Have an emergency "go bag" packed at all times.
- If possible, store an extra cane. If you can, store others in strategic, consistent, and secured locations at work, home, school, volunteer sites, etc.
- If helpful, mark emergency supplies with large print, fluorescent tape, or braille.
- Store high-powered flashlights with wide beams and extra batteries.
Alternate Mobility Cues
After a major disaster, you may lose the auditory clues you usually rely on.
- In an earthquake, furniture can shift and things can fall. Move slowly and be careful not to trip on things that have fallen. Shuffle your feet if there is a lot of debris on the ground.
- If you have some vision, place security lights in each room to light your path. These lights plug into electric wall outlets and light up automatically if the power goes out. Some can last for 1-6 hours. Some can be turned off manually and used as a short-term flashlight.
- Service animals may become confused, panicked, frightened, or disoriented during and after a disaster. Keep them in a crate or securely leashed. A leash or harness is an important item for managing a nervous or upset animal. Learn about other ways to plan for animals.
- Before a disaster, talk to your local TV news stations. Ask them to think about people who can't read the screen when they're giving emergency updates. Ask them to announce important phone numbers slowly and repeat them frequently.
Have an emergency "go bag" packed at all times.
- If possible, store extra hearing aids in your "go bag."
- Store extra batteries for hearing aids, implants, TTY, and light phone signalers.
- Store hearing aid(s) in a strategic, consistent, and secured location so they can be found and used after a disaster. For example, store them in a container by your bed. Attach the container to your nightstand or bedpost using a string or Velcro. Missing or damaged hearing aids will be hard to replace or fix immediately after a major disaster.
- Put a reminder on your calendar so you remember to maintain TTY batteries.
- Store paper and pen for communicating with people if there is no interpreter or if you don't have your hearing aids.
- Install both smoke alarms that make noise and flashlights. At least one should be battery-operated in case the power goes out.
- Have more than one method to get warnings and evacuation information. Sign up for PublicAlerts.
- Consider carrying a pre-printed copy of important messages with you, such as:
- "I speak American Sign Language (ASL) and need an interpreter."
- "I do not write or read English."
- "If you make announcements, I will need to have them written or signed."
- If possible, get a battery-operated television that has a decoder chip. This will help you see signed or captioned emergency reports.
- Find out which TV stations will have continuous emergency news that will be captioned or signed.
- Help recruit interpreters to be Red Cross or Community Emergency Response Team volunteers.
- Before a disaster, talk to your local TV stations. Ask them to give all emergency news and information in open-caption format. Ask them to make sure weather messages and other written alerts don't block the captions. Ask them to make sure they have interpreters for emergency duty.
- When you travel, ask hotels if they have services for deaf and hearing-impaired people, including audible alarms.
Have an emergency "go bag" packed at all times.
- Think about what a rescue worker would need to know about you. Write it down. Practice saying it. Put a written copy in your kit. Here are some examples:
- "I may have trouble understanding you. Please speak slowly and use simple language."
- “I have a panic disorder. If I panic, give me one green pill [name of medication] located in my [purse, wallet, pocket, etc.].”
- “I forget easily. Please write down information for me."
- "I cannot read."
- "I don't understand English. Please help me find a [name of language] interpreter."
- Keep your written emergency plan and a visual communication tool with you at all times. Keep copies in several locations. Make sure the plan is easy to read. For Individuals with Intellectual or Developmental Disabilities, you may want to:
- Keep handheld electronic devices charged and loaded with videos and activities.
- Purchase spare chargers for electronic devices and keep them charged.
- Include sheets and twine or a small pop-up tent (to decrease visual stimulation in a busy room or to provide instant privacy).
- Consider a pair of noise-canceling headphones to decrease auditory stimuli.
- Have comfort snacks available.
- Practice what to do during a disaster. Practice leaving the places where you spend a lot of time, such as home, work, and school. Do it until you are sure you know what to do and where to go.
- Visual Communication Tool (Oregon Health Authority)
- Know Your Rights (Disability Rights Oregon)
- Earthquake Accessibility Resources (Earthquake Country Alliance)
- Preparedness for Individuals with Disabilities (FEMA)
- Preparedness for Older Adults (FEMA)
- Disaster Safety for People with Disabilities (American Red Cross)
- Free Downloadable Communication Aids in English & Spanish (Temple University Institute on Disabilities)
- Feeling Safe, Being Safe (California Department of Developmental Services)
- Autism Help App for Emergencies (iTunes)
Plan for Animals
Pets and service animals are important to many of us. If caring for your animals will slow you down or prevent you from evacuating quickly during an emergency, it's especially important to including them in your emergency planning. Check out the Plan for Animals page for lots of great tips and resources.
Create a Personal Support Team
If you depend on others for daily support, consider establishing a Personal Support Team (PST) for home and work. Your team should be made up of at least three people who are within walking distance and can help you immediately following a major emergency.
Team Members Should:
- Be familiar with your daily schedule and routines.
- Know how to enter your home to check on you in case you are injured or trapped.
- Have important information regarding your care, including how to operate necessary equipment.
- Have copies of your emergency plan and know how to stay informed.
Work together to figure out what supplies you'll need to take with you and where they're located. Also discuss different ways you can get out of the building, and practice doing it.
If You Receive Regular Services:
If you receive home health care, transportation, dialysis, etc., make a plan with each service provider. Learn about their disaster plans and how to contact them in an emergency. Work with them to identify back-up service providers.
Videos and Workbook
Oregon Health Sciences University's READY NOW! Emergency Preparedness Tool Kit For People with Disabilities provides tips on staying informed, creating a support group, assembling a kit, and having an emergency plan. These tips provide people with disabilities guidance in managing communication, equipment, pets, and home hazards. The material is based on FEMA's Ready Now training developed in partnership with Oregon Office on Disability Health. Please note that the current recommendation is to have a two-week emergency kit.
American Sign Language