Emergency Preparedness Tips For Those With Functional Needs

By Shaunda Rauch on October 25, 2013 from Emergency Services Blog via Connect-Bridgeport.com

Your ability to successfully respond to a disaster is directly related to your preparedness prior to the disaster.  While being prepared for disasters and emergencies is important for all individuals, it is even more critical for those with functional needs who may need assistance during an emergency.  
As an Emergency Manager one of the hardest things to do is to define what “functional needs” means to our preparedness/response programs.  It is an extremely broad classification that encompasses almost every single one of us.  For example, functional needs applies to:  language barriers, cognitive impairments, deaf or hard of hearing, those on life support systems [dialysis, oxygen dependent], medical system dependence [diabetics], those with mental health or substance abuse problems, mobility impairments, seniors, those with service animals and pets, visual impairments, parents of small children, and individuals who are classified as temporary functional needs [recent surgery]. 
Times of disaster will make the availability and access to resources that our functional needs population requires extremely limited, if available at all.  And as committed as your emergency services agencies are, it may be outside of their control to be able to provide assistance or resources to you or your loved ones.  Anything can happen at any time … knowing that you have taken steps to ensure your special needs and the needs of  your loved ones are taken care of brings a great sense of peace.   
The following information from Ready.gov provides emergency preparedness tips for individuals with functional needs and their caregivers.
Plan to stay independent during times when services may be unavailable during an emergency.
Create a Support Network
·         Plan how you will contact your family members by calling, or emailing, or texting agreed upon friends or relatives if you’re unable to contact each other directly.
·         Let people in your support network know of your emergency plans. Tell them where you keep your emergency supplies. They may be able to assist you in ensuring that your assistive devices will go with you if you have to evacuate your home.
·         If you use oxygen or other medical equipment, show friends how to use these devices so they can move you or help you evacuate. Practice your plan with your personal support network.
·         Discuss assistance you may need with your employer in the event of an emergency.
·         Create a plan and share it with neighbors, friends, co-workers and relatives so they know what you need and how to contact you if the power goes out.
Collect Important Information and Phone Numbers
·         Keep a list of contacts, including family, and friends and list the best way to reach them in an emergency.
·         Keep a list of the local non-profit or community-based organizations that could provide assistance.
·         Maintain a list of phone numbers for your doctors, pharmacy, and the medical facilities you use.
·         Make copies of medical prescriptions and doctors’ orders for assistive devices that you use.  List where you got the devices from and see if your local pharmacy is willing to provide a list of your prescription medicine and devices for you.
·         Make copies of medical insurance cards, Medicare or Medicaid cards, physicians’ contact information, a list of your allergies, and your health history.
·         Even if you do not use a computer, put important information onto a flash drive for easy transport in the event of an evacuation.
·         If you own a medical alert tag or bracelet, wear it.
·         Keep track of which TV stations broadcast news that is captioned or signed
·         Find out if your community has a public warning system and if so, what the warning sounds like.
·         When traveling or in an unfamiliar area, know what type of alert and warning services are used and where to find them (station, network, etc.)
·         If you receive dialysis or other life sustaining medical treatment, identify the location and availability of more than one facility and work with your provider to develop your personal emergency plan.
Make Backup Plans to Receive Medical Treatment
·         If you work with a medical provider or organization to receive life sustaining medical treatment such as dialysis, oxygen, or cancer treatment, work with the provider to identify alternative locations where you could continue to receive treatment.
Make Backup Plans to Receive In-Home Care
·         If you receive in-home assistance or personal assistance services, work with your agency and develop a backup plan for continued care.
·         Ask how you can continue to receive services from providers such as a Center for Independent Living, Meals-on-Wheels, or medical and life alert services.
Stay Mobile with Accessible Transportation
·         Plan ahead for accessible transportation that you may need for evacuation or getting to a medical clinic. Work with local services such as Older Adults Transportation Service (OATS) to identify your local or private accessible service.
Plan for Possible Evacuation
·         During an emergency, be ready to explain to first responders and emergency officials that you need to evacuate and choose to go to a shelter with your family, service animal, caregiver, personal assistant, and your assistive technology devices.
Note that people should only be referred to a medical shelter when they have acute health care needs and would typically be admitted to a hospital.
Plan for Power Outages Before They Happen
·         Before disaster strikes, you may register with your power company. They may alert you when power will be restored in an unplanned outage and before a planned outage.
·         In the event that you cannot be without power, plan for how you will have power backup. If possible, have backup battery, generator or alternate electrical resources.
·         Make sure that devices that will maintain power to your equipment during electric outages are charged.
·         Purchase extra batteries for motorized wheelchairs or other battery-operated medical or assistive technology devices. Keep the batteries charged at all times. Consider whether you could charge your wheelchair from your car.
·         Backup chargers for a cell phone could include a hand-crank USB cell phone emergency charger, a solar charger, or a battery pack. Some weather radios have a built in hand crank charger.
·         Backup chargers for a laptop or tablet could include a 12V USB adapter that plugs into a car, an inverter, or a battery jump pack with an USB port.
·         People who are deaf or hard of hearing can get important information on a cell phone or pager.  Sign up for emergency emails and text messages on your cell phone from your local government alert system.
·         Plan how you are going to receive emergency information if you are unable to use a TV, radio or computer.  This may include having an adaptive weather alert system to alert you in the event of severe weather.
·         Plan for medications that require refrigeration.
·         Having flashlights available will also facilitate lip-reading or signing in the dark.

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