Emergency Preparedness for people with disabilities is one of the latest topics on everybody’s minds these days and rightfully so. There are many different types of emergencies and disasters such as hurricanes, floods, fires and man made disasters such as chemical spills. For some disasters you may be required to move to the nearest shelter, others you may be allowed to shelter in place. Are you prepared to shelter in place if the situation allows? Sheltering in place is the ability to stay in your own home during a disaster, which is easier and less stressful then going to a shelter. However, in order to shelter in place you must be prepared to be without power or without running water, you must have the right supplies in your home that can help you survive and sustain yourself and family for at least 3 days. A good emergency kit would include non-perishable foods, a battery powered or crank up radio, enough medication for several days, bottled water, and an alternate power source. An alternate power source is particularly important for you if you depend on power equipment such as a power wheelchair or a ventilator. There are relatively inexpensive generators available for purchase to help charge your wheelchair, run your refrigerator, or charge your cell phone. It is also important to have on hand copies of identification that have been stored in a plastic zip bag.
People with disabilities have all of the same problems in an emergency situation that a non-disabled person has and more. It is important to have a support network in place, which could be a friend, a neighbor, or relative to help you during an emergency situation. Sometimes people with disabilities rely on personal care attendants. You need to have a plan already in place with that person in case the telephone system is down during the disaster and that way you will both know what to do. You also need to know where the evacuation shelter is in case you cannot shelter in place. You can call your local Office of Emergency Management or OEM for that information. Making your plan is the first part of preparing.
Another important step in being prepared for a disaster is registering on the special needs registery. The Mercer County Office for the Disabled has a special needs registration program. You simply fill out a form and mail it back to The Mercer County Office for the Disabled. Your information will then be kept in a secure data base until there is a disaster, then first responders (Police, Fire, EMS) will know where you are and that you have special needs. It is important that you register. There has been some resistance to register because people are concerned that their information may be used for other things, but let me assure you that this information is kept completely confidential. The other reason is that people don’t want to be labeled disabled or special needs. In any case, it’s your health, your safety; it’s your choice, your call and your life. We all have a responsibility to be aware of what is happening in our world, state, county and neighborhood and to prepare ourselves and our families for an emergency or a disaster.
Special Needs Registry forms can be obtained from PCIL or Mercer County Office for Disabled