Emergency Preparedness for Individuals with Disabilities

NYAPRS Note: This emergency preparation list for Hurricane Sandy was shared with us by NYS Independent Living Council




Emergency Preparedness for Individuals with Disabilities

October 28, 2012




-Ensure you have non-perishable food, bottled water, batteries, flashlights, candles, and lighter/matches. As the temperatures will be in the 40s, also ensure blankets are in your vehicles. If you have a fireplace, be sure it is ready to be used and you have wood.

Cell phones; keep them fully charged. Car chargers can serve as the main source of charging if power goes out. Be sure family out of town has a way to contact you to include a phone number beyond your land line or cell phone.

  • Have an out-of-town contact that every member of your family will call after a disaster

Money; get extra cash out now. Is power goes out; ATMs will not be in operation.

Here is the complete list:

Having a basic kit on hand to sustain yourself and your family after an emergency is an essential part of preparation. Think first about basic survival needs: fresh water, food, clean air, and warmth. Store your supplies in a portable container as close as possible to an exit and review the contents of your kit at least once a year. Include in your kit:

  • 3-day supply of water: 1 gallon per person per day but you may need more; consult with your doctor
  • 3-day supply of non-perishable food that meets your dietary requirements
  • Manual can opener and eating utensils
  • Medical equipment and assistive devices
  • Medications and a list of prescription name, dosage, frequency, and doctor contact information
  • Cooler with an ice pack if medications need to be refrigerated
  • Medical alert tags or bracelets to identify your disability-related need
  • Supplies for a service animal or pets including 3-day supply of food and water, ID tags, proof of vaccinations, and veterinarian contact information
  • Flashlight
  • Portable, battery-powered radio
  • Extra batteries
  • Basic first aid kit and manual
  • Warm clothing and blankets
  • Whistle
  • Filter face masks (N95 rating)
  • List of emergency contact information
  • Photocopies of important documents (birth certificate, licenses, insurance information, etc.)
  • Cash and coins
  • Sanitation and hygiene items (hand sanitizer, denture care, moist towelettes, absorbent pads, toilet paper, feminine hygiene products, etc.)
  • Household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper: 9 parts water to 1 part bleach can be used as a disinfectant, 16 drops of bleach to 1 gallon of water can be used to treat water in an emergency (do not use scented, color safe, or bleaches with added cleaners)
  • Items for infants (formula, diapers, bottles, and pacifiers) if applicable



-If you will need assistance, have you talked to the supports you utilize? Is staff in place?

-Support network/Neighbors; if they are part of your emergency plan, talk to them now. These are the individuals who assist you or who’s residence you would go to if you can no longer stay at yours AND who may have a generator. Be sure they will be staying in place and let them know your plans. If you are able to stay at home but there are still emergency circumstances, identify what your needs will be and a general timeframe of when they will check on you or you will need them (i.e. meal prep).

-Personal care aides; do you know the PCAs who can STILL work during an emergency. Some aides may not be available as they’ll need to stay with their families or may live too far away to get to where you are. Remember, FEMA recognizes reimbursement needs for Personal Assistance services

-service providers; if you are receiving services from an agency, are they prepared? It’s OK to question if they have everything in place. This would include staffing established, (non-perishable) food in stock, meds in full supply, generator is operational, flashlights, and transportation is prepared.

-Transportation; if you are reliant on a transportation vendor, contact them to see what their plan is. This should include what their pick-up schedule looks like and their staffing.  The big mistake these companies make is they don’t coordinate pick-up schedules and have contracts with many providers and individuals.

-Generators; test them now and ensure the gas tank and your gas can are full. You may also need an extension cord.

Durable Medical Equipment (DME);

-If you have a power wheelchair be sure it is fully charged. Charge it daily to keep it at (near) 100%. If you’re charger is portable, have it ready to go with you if you need to evacuate.

If you are going to another residence, you need to prepare for your DME needs in advance OR go to this residence prior to ‘the call for evacuation’. This will allow you to transfer your DME.

If you are going to a shelter, they are supposed to have DME needs addressed in advance.


Emergency management has been educated to the need to ensure communication is not just verbal. Interpreters on TV announcements (and at shelters) and closed captioning are expected. This does not mean it will be available.  Be proactive and inform them of this need, provide your local emergency managers and local media the contact information of the local interpreting services.


  • They are supposed to be accessible and have DME needs on hand. They are also welcome to service animals (they may not allow pets). A walk through by someone knowledgeable of accessible shelters and supplies is recommended. This should happen TODAY. All individuals with disabilities should be prepared to enter a shelter that may not be ready to serve your needs fully. While this is not acceptable, it is reality. (Please note that NYSILC continues to work with the various entities responsible for ensuring emergency managers and planners are responsive to the WHOLE community.)



  • Identify accessible primary and secondary evacuation routes in buildings you frequent
  • Identify family meeting places; choose a location close to your home and another outside your neighborhood
  • If you require assistance, involve your support network in the plan
  • If you have a car, keep at least a half tank of gas in it in case you need to evacuate
  • Become familiar with alternate routes and other means of transportation out of your area (Find local information)
  • If you do not have a car, identify public and private resources with accessible transportation that will assist in evacuation
  • When evacuating:
    • Take your emergency supply kit with you
    • Lock the door behind you and leave a note telling others when you left and where you are going


  • Designate a safe room in your home; it should be an interior room where you are able to close and seal all doors, windows, and vents
  • Identify any assistance you will need and plan accordingly with your support network
  • If you must go to a public shelter, assume that the shelter may not be accessible and you may not be able to receive all of the attention you need from staff
  • Pets, except for service animals, are not allowed in public shelters; if possible, plan your evacuation in advance to find lodging where you may take your pets
  • If you must go to a public shelter, leave your pet behind with plenty of food and water, and a note on the door indicating that your pet is inside


  • If you are dependent on dialysis or other life sustaining treatment, know the location of more than one facility
  • Teach members of your support network who would assist you how to operate necessary equipment
  • Practice clear, specific, and concise instructions that you would give to rescue workers about your needs
  • Know your plan and practice it with your support network
  • Don’t expect assistance at the height of an emergency; first responders cannot risk their own lives driving into a chemical cloud or against hurricane-force winds



The term “mobility disabilities” refers primarily to persons who have little or no use of their legs or arms.


  • Pair of heavy gloves to use while wheeling or making your way over glass and debris
  • Extra batteries for your motorized wheelchair or scooter
  • Jumper cables or recharging device that can be connected to a car cigarette lighter
  • Patch kit or can of “seal-in-air product” to repair flat tires
  • Spare cane or walker


  • Contact your fire department for help in evacuation planning, but make sure the advice fits your needs
  • Arrange furniture so it does not block a quick exit
  • Ask support network members to help you create a plan if you must evacuate a building by stairway
  • Be familiar with evacuation plans for multi-story buildings in case the elevators stop
  • Plan how you will get along if you must abandon your wheelchair; several companies make products to assist with evacuation
  • Know the location of a building's designated areas of refuge to await rescue, as it may not be possible to evacuate with everyone else


  • Expect that public shelters will not be one-hundred percent accessible and that you may need assistance transferring to and from a sleeping cot or navigating around tightly packed walkways


The term “sensory disabilities" refers to persons with hearing or visual limitations, such as blindness or total deafness.


  • Pad of paper with pens or pencils for writing notes
  • Extra batteries for tape recorders, TTYs, etc.
  • Extra pair of dark glasses, if medically required
  • Folding mobility cane


  • If you are deaf, find out if fire alarms in buildings you frequent are visual
  • If you are blind, be aware that alarms may be so loud they will drown out audio cues, such as the sound of people running
  • Ask members of your support network to alert you to warnings and alarms
  • Consider purchasing a National Weather Radio (NWR) for your home; it turns itself on and emits an audible or visual alarm during natural and man-made hazards
  • If you use telecommunications relay services, look into different backup options including: dialing 711 (nationwide), CapTel (captioned telephone), internet-based relay (through computer, text pager, PDA, etc.), and/or video relay services (though broadband)


  • Be prepared to communicate without an interpreter to tell shelter operators what your needs are
  • If you are blind or visually impaired, expect to require assistance finding a place to sit and the location of the restroom and food line



  • Alternate power source or spare batteries for communication device
  • Paper and writing materials
  • A favorite item, such as a small videogame or book, to help you relax while waiting in lines


  • Practice the evacuation route out of your home and workplace until it is ingrained in your memory
  • Prepare pre-printed messages explaining your condition to show first responders, such as: “I may have difficulty understanding what you are telling me, so please speak slowly and use simple language.”
  • Plan to and practice how to describe your disability in a short, meaningful phrase in case your pre-printed messages aren’t available
  • Plan outlets for the stress and anxiety that may arise during an emergency
  • Plan to focus on instructions you are given and follow them


  • Although sheltering at home or work is the least stressful alternative, if you can leave your community before a known threat arrives do so
  • Seek refuge with friends and family first because it will be more comfortable and less stressful
  • If you must go to a public shelter:
    • Expect the conditions to be noisy, crowded, and boring
    • Consult the shelter doctor or nurse if you believe your medication (or lack thereof) is creating medical problems
    • Work particularly hard to watch body language so you will know when it is a good time to ask a question of a staff member or other occupant
    • Think carefully before you speak since people under the stress of shelter life may not understand your condition