“The Big One” is coming—it’s not a matter of if, but when. So what are people with disabilities supposed to do in an earthquake, power outage, or crisis?
People with disabilities face unique challenges when it comes to emergency preparation, evacuation, shelter, and the recovery process. By planning ahead and accounting for your specific needs, you can more confidently protect yourself when disaster strikes.
Create a support network of family and friends that can help in an emergency. Give each member a spare set of car and house keys (#1) and include a contact who is near enough to help, but far enough away to be unaffected by the same crisis.
Work with your support network and caregivers to develop a plan. Be sure everyone knows where you keep your emergency supplies, which medical devices or assistive technology you’ll need in case of evacuation, and what to do if you require oxygen or mechanical ventilation. Talk with your property manager and employer about how your building evacuation procedures include people with disabilities. Practice your plan, including using evacuation chairs, just like you would a fire drill.
Prepare an up-to-date emergency kit and store it in an easy-to-find location. Your kit should include the following:
- Flashlights, hands-free headlamps, or battery-powered LED lanterns (#2). Keep these in different areas of your home—and don’t forget extra batteries (#3)!
- A wheelchair repair kit (#4) including a tire patch kit, a seal-in-air product, inner tubes and tires, and a manual tire pump (#5). Include heavy gloves (#6) for wheeling over sharp debris and latex-free gloves for anyone providing you with personal care.
- Medical supplies, including spare catheters, and medication for 72 hours or longer (#7). List all food/drug allergies and current medications (dosage, frequency, generic name, medical condition being treated and contact of prescribing physician.) Share this list with your support network. Plan with your doctor for emergency prescription refills and have a strategy for medications that require refrigeration. Use a smartphone app (#8) to set up an easy-to-access personalized medical ID specifically for emergencies.
- Water (#9) in transportable bottles (two litres per person per day) and non-perishable, ready-to-eat foods (#10) that won’t spoil. For cans, include a manual can-opener.
- A first aid kit (#11) including a personal assessment checklist identifying areas of your body that have reduced sensation and may need to be checked for injury.
- A working corded telephone (#12) or battery-powered charger for your mobile phone. To conserve battery power, lower the brightness, close inessential apps and, unless you need immediate Internet access, put your phone in airplane mode. Put your phone to sleep, rather than turning it off.
- Warm clothing and emergency blankets (#13). Additionally, cloth blankets (#14) and rope (#15) can help transport you during an emergency, and duct tape (#16) can do virtually anything.
- A paper copy of your emergency plan and contact information (#17) including phone, email, and social media info for your family, friends, caregivers, neighbors and important medical contacts. Include local emergency contact numbers as well as 1 888 POWERON (1 888 769 3766) for reporting an outage.
- A whistle (#18) or personal alarm in case you need to call for help.
- External battery packs, chargers (#19), and generators. Keep a spare deep-cycle battery handy for motorized mobility devices or life-sustaining equipment.
- Games, cards, and books (#20) can help alleviate anxiety and boredom while you wait.
Tag or label (#21) essential equipment, that will need to be used, moved, or maintained by those providing assistance during an emergency. It’s a good idea to keep hand sanitizer (#22) close by for your personal use and for those those who are helping you with your care routines.
If you have a pet or service animal, remember to plan for its needs. And keep a recent photo of your service animal on hand (#23) in case it gets separated from you.
Finally, check with your municipal office to find out if emergency shelters in your area are wheelchair accessible and notify your regional health authority and BC Hydro about your needs. To determine the type of help you will need in an emergency, do a self-assessment at gov.bc.ca/preparedbc or visit sci-bc.ca/stories/blog for more emergency preparedness tips.
This article appeared in our Summer 2016 issue of The Spin, alongside other stories including:
- The Pain Relieving Properties of Cannabis
- New Online Pain Management Tools
- Using Mindfulness Practice for Pain
- AD: Botox to the Rescue
- The SCI BC Peers Behind the Mobility Mount
- And more!