Planning an Emergency Evacuation for the DIsabled

In an impending emergency (power outage, flooding, fire, tornado) it is important to have a safety plan in mind, but this is especially crucial for people with disabilities. If a family member has a cognitive or medical condition that requires extra needs, always keep a few things in mind in case of emergency.

Have an emergency bag ready--in a highly visible location so it is easily accessible to grab and go!

Have an emergency bag ready--in a highly visible location so it is easily accessible to grab and go!

Have a Plan

First, have a plan worked out with all household members for any emergency.  Have one person in charge of the person with a disability while another would be in charge of or grabbing the emergency supplies bag. Make sure all family members know where the family meets in the event of a disaster, and in the event of an evacuation. The youngest children should be taught Grandma’s address or phone number as soon as they’re old enough, or it should be written or stored in something they’re likely to have with them. In the case of toddlers, an emergency number can be written in their shoe.

Have Supplies

Second, have a spare bag prepared.  With this emergency bag include at least a few days’ worth of medication doses along with instructions for these medications along with the prescribing provider’s name and phone number.  Generally, this is a patient’s general practitioner, so having that name and number handy is important for any questions or if the house is uninhabitable, there would be a way to get an emergency prescription so the patient will not miss any doses of medication.  If the patient is diabetic, make sure that a glucometer and test strips are in this bag along with an emergency medication and/or treatment and insulin and insulin supplies (syringes, insulin pump supplies) if applicable.  If the person needs other daily supplies (incontinence supplies, spare clothing, or other medical items for their immediate care) also pack spares of this in the bag.  Ideally, this bag will carry essentials to last the person with a disability for at least a day without containing everything in the medicine cabinet.  Assuming one has a smartphone, make sure that and a spare charger is included.  (Keep a spare charger in the bag).  Most clinics and pharmacies use web-based sites to interact with their patients.  Medication instructions, providers names and confidential email is included in these sites.

Preparation is Best

Third, prepare ahead of time, if possible.  One cannot predict if a house fire or flood evacuation, but maintaining household equipment, keeping fire alarms up to code and working are good tools to assist in avoiding a house fire.  In addition, watch weather reports and alarms.  With today’s technology cell phones will also alarm if bad weather is approaching and a decision can be made ahead of time how to help that person with a disability stay safe.  If travel is a necessity, prepare the person with special needs to get to a safe zone.  If that person is in a wheelchair a friend’s house with multiple sets of stairs may not be the right safe area.  Again, precautions should be made to take into account the limitations of the person with a disability.


Fourth, also consider the mental state of the person with a disability.  Some persons with a cognitive, neurological or behavioral disability such as Down Syndrome will require a person who is familiar and comfortable with the person in order for that person to maintain calm.  These persons often thrive on routines and a set of instructions that are clear and concise, not to mention familiar caregivers.  When their routine is shifted, often their behavior will shift and a familiar caregiver can work through these behaviors and communicate with the person.