• 6 Ways to Prepare People with Special Needs and Disabilities

    Special Needs - CannonLast week, my family went to a minor league baseball game. We love these games because we can sit so close to the action. We were right above the bullpen.

    One thing was strange. My 10-year-old special needs daughter kept asking, “Where’s the cannon?”

    Finally, we identified the “cannon.” It was the sound of the baseball hitting the catcher’s glove.

    We’re adding earplugs to her emergency preparedness bag.

    The American Red Cross booklet, “Preparing for Disaster for People with Disabilities and other Special Needs,” offers six steps to be prepared.


    Create a personal support network

    A personal support network is a group of at least three people from every place a disabled person spends time. Their job is to help prepare and assist that person if disaster occurs.

    They need to know the capabilities and special needs of the disabled person, like how to use a wheelchair or give medication, according to a FEMA pamphlet, “Preparing Makes Sense for People with Disabilities and Special Needs.”

    They also need to know the person’s evacuation plan. At least one other person should have a key to the disabled person’s home.


    Complete a personal assessment

    A personal assessment is a list of daily needs and resources. It includes questions like these from the National Organization on Disability. The questions help with planning.

    • Do you use communication devices?
    • Do you depend on accessible transportation?
    • Do you receive medical treatments (e.g. dialysis) on a regular basis?
    • Do you need assistance with personal care?
    • Do you rely on electrical equipment or other durable equipment?
    • Do you use mobility aids such as a walker, cane, or a wheelchair?
    • Do you have a service animal?


    Get informed about resources in your area

    Disaster assistance resources include warning systems like reverse 911 and special needs registries.

    The area where my family lives has a reverse 911 system. It’s easy to sign up for it; I enrolled using my smartphone while my husband and I were out running errands.

    Many communities ask people with special needs to register with the fire or police department. Those who need electrical equipment also should register with the local utility company.


    Make a plan

    Actually, make two plans.

    Plan for those with special needsA communication plan includes contact information for family members and friends, work and school, and emergency organizations. Ready.gov and The Red Cross have forms for this information. Everyone should have an out-of-town contact because it’s often easier to make long distance calls after a disaster, according to the Red Cross booklet.

    Families should also determine escape routes and emergency meeting places outside their home and neighborhood.

    A woman from the U.S. who had trouble walking described her escape plan to a United Nations disaster preparedness survey of people with disabilities. It started with having supplies loaded in her car.

    “I would then put my cat in her carrier, go out to the car and drive up to my brother’s house, 10 miles north, where I will be helped by family members and be safe,” she wrote.


    Assemble a kit

    Brad and Robyn Mann, who write a column called Sleeping with MS, described how they learned the importance of a disaster kit. Their town, more than 20 miles inland, flooded during Hurricane Irene in 2011.

    First responders began evacuating the town. The Manns had 20 minutes to prepare.

    “I panicked. We needed to assemble and pack essential clothing for four children, two adults, along with prescription medications and vital documents. All this needed to be ready in less time than it takes me to get dressed!” they wrote.

    June Isaacson Kailes, a disability policy consultant, suggested packing two weeks’ worth of medical equipment.

    “Make sure to pack enough medical supplies like syringes, ostomy bags, catheters and padding to last that long. Know what you are able to carry in a fanny pack, backpack or drawstring bag hung from a wheelchair, scooter or other assistive device. Do what is realistic for you,” she wrote.


    Maintain the plan and the kit

    Minor problems can become major events with my special needs daughter. Several months ago, a nearby transformer blew out. It was evening and rapidly getting dark. My daughter panicked. I had my cell phone and its flashlight, but only about 10 percent of charge remained.

    Phones can be critical when preparing for special needsFortunately, I had a flashlight handy. Unfortunately its batteries were dead. By the rapidly diminishing power from my phone’s light, I found batteries and got it working. My daughter calmed down.

    I learned three lessons. First, keep my phone charged (maybe I haven’t learned that one yet). Second, know where emergency equipment is and keep it in easy access. Third, make sure my emergency kit isn’t out of date.

    Day-to-day life when dealing with special needs is exhausting. Yet it’s especially important for individuals with disabilities and their families to somehow find time and energy to prepare for emergencies.

    The American woman with walking difficulty who was interviewed by the UN said being prepared helped her develop confidence.

    “I must say that being this way … has been quite a learning experience as well as one for teaching myself how to be resourceful,” she wrote. “I may be slow, but I’ll always get there”



    - Melissa


    What are some other effective ways you've found in preparing for those who are disabled or have special needs? Let us know in comments!

    Posted In: Additional Reading, Emergency Kits Tagged With: disability, Disaster prep, special needs

  • Preparing With Disaster Apps

    Your smartphone can save your life.

    It’s true! Now, it probably won’t jump in the ocean and pull you safely from a rip tide, and it more than likely won’t put out the wild fire that’s coming dangerously close to your home. Instead, it can save your life by providing you with all sorts of disaster apps dedicated to helping you be prepared in the event of a crisis.

    Red Cross Disaster AppsVector Button - Canada Flag IconAnd, because it's Canada Day, and the Red Cross' logo is red and white (is that too big of a stretch? Nah, it's good)... I want to take today to talk about what the Red Cross is doing to help people use their phones to be prepared. They have put out a host of apps all dedicated to helping you be safe, even without a wireless or data connection.

    For example, the Emergency App monitors 35 different types of severe weather and emergency alerts, such as floods, tornadoes, wildfires, extreme heat, earthquakes, and more. So no matter where you are or what you’re doing, you will be alerted if there’s a disaster that could affect you and your area. Aside from just alerting you to issues, it also includes tips to make disaster prep plans, where to find shelters in your area, and a “Family Safe” function to allow you to see if your loved ones are safe if an alert is issued for their area.

    More specific disaster apps focus on a particular disaster, such as hurricanes or tornadoes. In these specific disaster apps, you can monitor and track hurricanes and other storms, find shelters, and earn badges by taking interactive quizzes about that particular disaster. These apps also provide you with information on what to do before, during, and after a disaster.

    Monster Guard Disaster App Red Cross

    There’s even an app for kids, called Monster Guard. Monster Guard is a game that teaches kids aged 7-11 how to prepare for real-life emergencies, whether you're at or away from home. Throughout the game, kids are able to practice what they learn within the levels, thus helping them instill that knowledge in their minds.

    So not only does it give you information you need, but actually helps teach you that knowledge so you don’t have to rely on it in the moment. Because in the moment, you might not even remember you have that app. And if you do, you’re probably going to want your hands free.

    Preparing for disasters isn’t what it used to be. Technology has made it easy to learn about disasters, and therefore be ready for them. Just a few quick taps on your phone or tablet will open up a wide world of information, utilities, and aids that will help you and your family be ready for pretty much anything.

    Now all you have to do is actually use them.

    It’s one thing to have the app on your phone or tablet, but it’s something else entirely to actually utilize it. How many apps do you have on your mobile device that you never use? I’ll be honest, my phone is packed full of apps, and I only use a handful of them. I think I’ll use them eventually, but really, they just sit there gathering digi-dust.

    When you download these Red Cross apps, make sure they don’t get lost in some folder titled “May Use Eventually.” Use them frequently so you can always have that all-important knowledge in your mind, so when the time comes to actually use that information, you won’t have to worry about knowing the right thing to do. While these apps are designed to help us during and after a disaster, they also have important information to help you prepare before one shows up, so the aftermath won’t be so bad.

    With this kind of media easily accessible, it is my hope that you take the time to download and familiarize yourselves with these apps. Preparedness fits in the palm of your hand. Don’t forget to look down at it once in a while.


    p.s. Happy Canada Day!


    How do you use media to be prepared? Let us know in the comments!

    Posted In: Disaster Scenarios, Planning, Practice Your Prep Tagged With: Canada day, red cross, disaster app

  • Bird Flu and Egg Shortage

    Bird flu causes egg shortagePicture this. You go to the supermarket and grab a carton of a dozen eggs. You open it and find four missing. So you pick up another carton. Same thing. You try again. Every carton contains only eight eggs.

    Thanks to avian influenza (bird flu), that’s what happened to companies that produce liquid, frozen, dehydrated, and freeze dried eggs.

    As of June 17, avian influenza had affected more than 35 million egg-laying hens. Businesses making egg products like dehydrated eggs lost more than 30 percent of their hens, according to an American Egg Board blog. That’s two out of every six eggs.

    “America’s egg farmers are working hard to find sources for their manufacturing partners and food service customers. However, due to the current supply disruption, there may be some shortages,” the blog said.

    Like human influenza, many strains of avian influenza exist.

    Most are low pathogenic, which means poultry don’t get very sick. Some are high pathogenic, or deadly to domestic flocks. Some can kill 90 to 100 percent of birds in a flock in two days.

    Bird flu carrierWild water birds carry the disease and usually don’t get sick, according to the CDC. The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service believes those birds likely brought the virus to the U.S. Once here, it may have passed from bird to bird through contact with feces or through the air in poultry houses. The virus could have flown from farm to farm on water birds, hitchhiked on contaminated vehicles and clothing or, though unlikely, been blown by high wind carrying dust and feathers. Scientists have found the virus on the shells of eggs.

    The CDC identified three high pathogenic strains in this year’s outbreak. None of them seem to jump easily from birds to people, though one is similar to a strain that made people sick in Europe, Asia and South Africa.

    “These specific viruses have not caused infections in people anywhere in the world,” said Alicia Fry from the CDC, in an April 22 news conference. “While we are cautiously optimistic that there will not be human cases, we must be prepared for that possibility, and we are taking routine preparedness steps.”

    Almost everyone who caught the virus worked closely with birds. People can’t get bird flu from eating properly cooked birds or eggs, said Angela Shaw, assistant professor in food science and human nutrition and extension specialist in food safety at Iowa State University.

    “Avian influenza is not a food borne pathogen,” Shaw said.

    Egg prices caused by bird flu US Department of Agriculture

    Even though we probably won’t get bird flu, it still affects our wallets.

    The USDA’s Egg Market News Report said for the week of June 22, a dozen large eggs sold for a $2.35 national average. The average price over the last three years, for the same week, was about 95 cents.

    Almost all of the nation’s eggs are spoken for. And it’s not like stores can stock a surplus of fresh ones. There’s such a thing as a rotten egg.

    That’s why many retailers and food service customers are having trouble getting products like freeze dried eggs.

    Companies making such egg products are struggling to get enough eggs to keep up with demand. Here’s what the USDA’s Egg Market News Report said about late June’s dried egg supply:

    “Supplies are very light as processors work to supply needs hand to mouth to regular commitments.”

    Individuals can still get and store eggs like the powdered and freeze-dried ones we sell. Frankly, we at Emergency Essentials are lucky: we were able to secure one of the last available shipments of freeze-dried eggs before the shortage became complete. Those eggs should be available though by the end of July.

    Because these eggs are pasteurized during processing, no one has to worry about them containing creepy crawlies like bacteria or viruses.

    Avian flu usually decreases during the summer, because the sun’s radiation more quickly breaks down the virus. However, agriculture specialists are bracing for autumn.

    “We can’t really predict what’s going to happen in the future,” said David Swayne, from the USDA’s Southeast Poultry Research Lab, on April 22. “But once the birds go in the summer up to their northern breeding grounds, it’s really not sure if they will be able to bring the virus back south or not.

    “We have to prepare for that potential option.”

    --Melissa Rivera



    American Egg Board: http://www.aeb.org/blog/food-manufacturers

    Centers for Disease Control: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/avianflu/avian-in-birds.htm

    U.S. Department of Agriculture: http://www.usda.gov/documents/usda-avian-influenza-factsheet.pdf; http://www.usda.gov/documents/avian-influenza-biology-outbreaks-qa.pdf

    USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service: “Epidemiologic and Other Analyses of HPAI-Affected Poultry Flocks: June 15, 2015 Report”: http://www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_health/animal_dis_spec/poultry/downloads/Epidemiologic-Analysis-June-15-2015.pdf

    Transcript: USDA and CDC Update to Media on Highly Pathogenic H5N2 Avian Influenza Outbreaks, April 22, 2015


    Iowa State University, “Eggs and Poultry Safe to Eat, Iowa State University Food Safety Specialist Stresses,” April 21, 2015: http://www.cals.iastate.edu/news/releases/eggs-and-poultry-safe-eat-iowa-state-university-food-safety-specialist-stresses

    USDA Egg Market News Report, June 22, 2015: http://www.ams.usda.gov/mnreports/pybshellegg.pdf

    Posted In: Additional Reading, Food Storage Tagged With: freeze-dried eggs, egg shortage, egg prices, bird flu, avian flu

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