special needs

  • Preparing Children with Special Needs for Emergencies

    Special Olympics Special Needs

    My eldest daughter participates in Special Olympics. At one of her practices, parents around me opened up about their greatest fear: what would happen when they died or couldn’t care for their adult children with intellectual disabilities?

    One mother didn’t know anyone she trusted to care for her son. Another worried because her husband didn’t want to think about writing a will. Many wondered how to pay for increasingly costly medical expenses.

    Yet none of us pondered what we would have done if a disaster that day had separated us from our children. How would we ensure first responders could help a family member who can’t answer “Where do you live?” or “What hurts?”

    Shelly Robertson, of American Fork, Utah, has considered that eventuality. One of her children is extremely allergic to dairy products and another is autistic.

    “My biggest concern is what happens to my kids if something happens to me and [my husband],” she said.

    Ready.gov suggests three steps people with special access and functional needs and their families should take.

    First, make a kit. In fact, Ready.gov suggests you make two kits: one for sheltering in place and another, lightweight one, if you need to evacuate.

    “It is crucial that you and your family think about what kinds of resources you use on a daily basis and what you might do if those resources are limited or not available,” Ready.gov said.

    Ready.gov lists supplies you might need here.

    However, add supplies based on yours or your family member’s individual needs.

    Perscription Special Needs

    If your insurance will allow it, keep a few extra days’ medication on hand. If not, Robertson keeps her family’s medication near the front door so they can grab it on the way out. Plan for medicines that require refrigeration.

    Pack appropriate food. Account for family members’ food allergies and food likes and dislikes. Remember comfort snacks like small candies for behavior concerns. Robertson included dairy-free, easy-to-clean food that her children like, including applesauce pouches and New Millennium emergency bars.

    Robertson also keeps chargers for her children’s tablets, because the tablets have movies and games to keep them occupied in chaotic situations.

    Carry insurance cards and information about all your assistive devices, like serial numbers and manufacturer’s phone numbers. Label everything. If you require powered devices, be sure to have a way to charge them or a backup device like a manual wheelchair. My daughter required breathing assistance overnight for many years. When we went on vacation, we took her huge machine (nicknamed for a Star Wars robot), but we also took oxygen canisters. We kept a sign on our door for first responders indicating oxygen in the home.

    Ready.gov has more information for other needs here.

    Second, make a plan. Then, share it with family, friends and emergency responders.

    Plan for all sorts of contingencies: if you’re separated when disaster strikes; if you need to shelter in place; if you need to quickly evacuate. Arrange for helpers and teach them how to deal with your needs. Robertson is including a family photograph and information about her children’s special needs in each child’s emergency backpack. She worries because her autistic son wanders.

    “How do I pass on the fact that my kids have special needs? I know what to do. Does someone else know what to do?” she asked.

    Third, be informed. Keep a portable radio. If you or a family member struggles to communicate, carry laminated cards with common phrases and pictures.

    If possible, get involved in community emergency planning.

    “People with disabilities often have experience in adapting and problem solving that can be very useful skills in emergencies,” Ready.gov said.

    At the Special Olympics practice where parents were talking about planning for their children, I had to leave mid-conversation. A group of rugby officials started practicing, and their whistle-blowing was driving my daughter into a panic. I keep shooting headphones in my car because she’s sensitive to sound, so I was quickly able to appease her. Emergency preparedness comes in handy even when there’s no emergency.


    Disaster_Blog_Banner Special Needs

  • 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”



    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!

  • Getting Started

    Many people ask, “Where do I begin when it comes to Emergency Preparedness?

    We'd answer that question by saying that the first thing you should do is to get information first. Information is the most valuable tool to have in an emergency. We have a large collection of Emergency Preparedness Insight Articles that can help you to obtain this vital preparedness information.

    Get Started on your Prepping by reading Emergency Essentials Insight Articles

    Insight Article Topics:

    Take a look at some of these articles to start or refresh your prepper education. These articles will help get yourself and your family invested in emergency preparedness. There are over 90 articles to choose from within 13 different categories. Insight Categories include:


    Preparedness Checklists and Downloads

    Another great way to get started (with no cost involved) is to develop a personal or family emergency preparedness plan. Check out our Preparedness Checklist page to start creating an emergency plan or to build your emergency kit today. You can print these plans directly from our website. Here are the checklists we have to offer:


    A Few More Tips for Getting Started

    Here are a few ideas and tips to get you started with your preparedness plan after you have your Family Evacuation Plan in place:

    • Establish a modest preparedness budget. Make it a priority and work at it the best you can. Start with a few items, such as: water (both portable and permanent), an emergency kit, emergency candles, a sleeping bag, and a first-aid kit or an emergency bag.
    • Get your information from reliable sources. Don’t let anyone scare you into thinking that it has to be done all at once or that you must incur heavy debt to achieve your goals.
    • Use short-term storage as a guide for long-term needs. The items required to sustain life for three days can easily be multiplied for planning long-term storage needs.
    • Be consistent. Within a short time you will have the necessary supplies and equipment to take care of yourself, family members, and others.
    • Think investment, not expense. Take care of what you purchase and learn not to waste.

    Remember that babies, small children, the elderly, pets, and those with special medical needs require special consideration when planning for an emergency. We offer some great information to help you with these groups.

    For those of you wondering how and where to begin, we hope this post will be helpful. For others who have already started, we welcome your input to help and assist those who are just beginning. An inner confidence results as one strives to do their best to become prepared.

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