Cristy Miles, MPH, MBA
June 28, 2023
Emergencies can strike at any moment, and being prepared is essential for everyone, including those with disabilities. Disasters and emergencies have a stronger impact on people with disabilities who's necessary health care or assistive tools may be disrupted for long periods of time. Unfortunately, there is often a lack of information and resources tailored to address the unique needs of people with disabilities during emergencies.
At HazAdapt, Inc., we have committed to a Humanity-Friendly technology standard that takes dedicated action to promote inclusivity and ensures the safety and well-being of all individuals as equitably as possible. We must research and explore the experience of emergency preparedness for people living with disabilities to provide actionable information and tips to help them stay safe during challenging times.
Understanding Unique Needs:
People living with disabilities face distinct challenges when it comes to emergencies. It is crucial for emergency preparedness efforts to recognize and address these needs effectively. Disabilities, such as mobility impairments, sensory impairments, cognitive disabilities, and chronic health conditions, can require specialized accommodations and support during emergencies. Providing those accommodations to the fullest degree necessary can be challenging or impossible for emergency authorities: many need the equitable information or assets needed to do so.
One of the key aspects of effective emergency preparedness is ensuring inclusive communication. Emergency management authorities and organizations are responsible for ensuring that information is accessible to all individuals, including those with disabilities. This provides information in various formats, such as large print, braille, or audio, to accommodate individuals with visual impairments. Additionally, captions or sign language interpreters should be available for people with hearing impairments. Utilizing plain language and clear instructions can also aid those with cognitive disabilities in understanding emergency procedures.
Personal Emergency Plan:
Creating a personal emergency plan is imperative. This plan should address specific needs and outline necessary actions during an emergency. Critical elements of a personal emergency plan may include:
Identify Support Networks: Reach out to family, friends, neighbors, or caregivers who can assist during an emergency. Share your emergency plan with them and ensure they know your needs and how to support you.
Medications and Medical Supplies: Keep an updated list of medications, medical equipment, and necessary supplies you may require during an emergency. Store these items in a designated, easily accessible place. FEMA recommends having a 72-hour emergency supply of necessary medications if possible.
Evacuation Strategies: Develop strategies for safely evacuating your home or workplace. Consider factors such as accessible transportation, assistance devices, and alternative routes if the primary route is inaccessible.
Communication Plan: Establish a communication plan with designated contacts, including emergency services, healthcare providers, and support networks. Ensure you have backup communication devices like a charged mobile phone or a two-way radio.
Emergency Kit: Prepare an emergency kit with essential items like food, water, a flashlight, batteries, a whistle, a first aid kit, and any other items specific to your disability or medical condition.
Collaboration and Advocacy:
To improve emergency preparedness for those with disabilities, it is essential for communities and organizations to collaborate and advocate for change. Engage with local emergency management agencies and disability advocacy groups to raise awareness about the unique needs of people with disabilities and promote inclusive emergency planning. By actively participating in discussions and sharing your experiences, you can help influence policies and practices that benefit the entire community.
Emergency preparedness is a shared responsibility that should prioritize the safety and well-being of everyone, including individuals living with disabilities. We can work towards a more inclusive and resilient society by understanding their unique needs, ensuring inclusive communication, developing personal emergency plans, and advocating for change. HazAdapt, Inc. is committed to promoting equitable access and providing the necessary tools for individuals with disabilities to thrive before, during, and after emergencies. Together, we can build a safer and more inclusive future for all.