Disasters disrupt lives, but what’s just inconvenient for most, can greatly impact people with disabilities. Without proper planning, mobility limitations, power outages, and depleted medical supplies can make disasters very difficult for people with disabilities.
It is important to prepare and plan in order to handle an emergency situation effectively. To ensure that emergency responders can properly respond to your needs, many residents with special needs can register their information with their county emergency management agency or personal physician. It is advised to do so right away. For registration and a list of state offices and agencies, visit: www. fema.gov/about/contact/statedr.shtm
If your medical condition requires that you be hospitalized during a disaster, consult with your physician about getting an authorization letter for pre-admission
Make sure that emergency responders, babysitters, other family members and caregivers can have ready access to essential information about the person with autism. The Personal Information Record can be posted in your home, kept in the car, carried in a purse or wallet, distributed to family members, trusted neighbors, friends, school personnel, employers, and co-workers or can be presented to police or paramedics in an emergency situation.
It is very important that you get to know your neighbors. This may foster favorable social interactions in case of emergency. Make sure neighbors and all care providers are well-educated about autism, potential risks, unique circumstances, and what to do in case of an emergency situation.
During an emergency situation or disaster we must remain calm even if we are not. Children with autism can sense our emotional state and might mimic it. Good planning and practice will help one to stay calm and collected.
Prepare for immediate needs before the disaster, like evacuating etc.. Have a plan regarding how to leave your house, building or even you city. Contact your local emergency information management office now, and explain your situation and needs so they may be able to help you and give you useful tips on how to prepare. That is why it’s so important to register your loved ones with autism or other disabilities. If your child or adult companion with autism is able to wear a med alert bracelet, please make sure you have them wear it all the time. For kids, they make a little plate that can be attached to the shoe laces.
Have a disaster supply kit on hand that you can use at home or in an evacuation setting. Kits should include:
Flashlight with extra batteries
Portable, battery-operated radio and extra batteries
First aid kit and manual
Emergency food and water for at least two days (per person)
Manual can opener
Essential medicines for three to seven days
Cash and credit cards (be sure to withdraw cash in advance)
Also, in case of evacuation, pack a safety & comfort kit, which can include:
Sleeping bag or cot
Personal hygiene items
Identification and valuable documents (insurance, birth and marriage certificates, and special-needs forms)
Change of clothes
“Comfort” items such as CD players and CDs (with extra batteries) or DVD player and DVDs
Ear plugs or eye shades
Storage boxes to store small items, can be plastic with lids
A drawing of the building layout and map of the area to give an orientation of where you are in relation to your home.
An ID bracelet and autism information cards to explain behaviors to others.
All individuals will have different needs, the above list is just a generic outlined list. You must consider your child’s needs and wants and add it to the list as well. Most importantly do not forget medications your child is taking regularly, as well as medicine for fever, pain, diarrhea, nausea/vomiting. Bug sprays and sunscreen are essential as well, and Cortisone cream, along with some Benadryl cream in case of bites or allergic rash.
My advice is to make a list and keep it some where easily accessible, so if you happen to remember something that is absolutely needed add it to the list and pack it up as well.
Also, prepare for needs in your home now, so you will be ready after disaster strikes. If anything is broken, have it fixed; something is loose, tighten it, etc.
Be aware of carbon monoxide in times of disaster, due to the use of generators, grills, camp stoves, or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal-burning devices inside the home, basement, garage or camper or even outside near an open window.
Here are some websites that might be helpful to check out, and give you some help what is best to do to prepare for disaster.
Centers for Disease Control, with respect to serious concerns for carbon monoxide poisoning.