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Emergency Preparedness

By Tracee L. Garner (ECNV Peer Mentor)

I was on a family vacation to Florida just a few weeks ago when I was caught up in Hurricane Matthew. The effects on where I was staying weren’t that bad, downed trees and debris and some power outages but getting back home to Virginia up the eastern seaboard was a completely different ordeal. My home wasn’t devastated because my home was in Virginia but I learned about what it really means to be stuck and dependent on others and precautions everyone should take whether or not their area is disaster prone.

Because we live in Virginia, we’re not as inclined to think much about natural disasters. The worst we have is flooding, annoying volumes of snow and power outages that can last for many days but nothing that completely destroys our home and displaces us to neighboring shelters. While this is the case for many in the area, I learned that it’s still tremendously important to make a plan for what may seem like a small issue. Here’s some tips you can use as we prepare for colder months and the havoc they can wreak on our day-to-day routines:

PLAN FOR THE WORST CASE SCENARIO - The worst may not happen but wouldn’t you rather be safe than sorry. If you think about and make a plan for the absolute worst-case scenario, you’ll have an increased chance of meeting success and you will have piece of mind. You could tell friends, “Hey, if something happens give me a call and check on me.” You could even ask if certain friends/family could stay over for a few days or if you could stay with them, at least until, a storm blows over. You could make sure that all of your rechargeable assistive technology is charged up even if you don't charge them every night. If you hear a storm is coming, you could start charging things nightly so they don’t run down right away. 

COMMUNICATE YOUR NEEDS EARLY ON - Often, when you are a fairly independent person with a disability, people don’t see the times when completing various tasks can be difficult. Outsiders certainly don’t know that one little blip in your routine can send your life awry. Thus, they may believe that getting around and getting to/from work or appointments just kind of happens. Tell them about your situation and in the event of an emergency, they’ll have a better understanding of how things may affect you. Never assume they will help you if they don’t know. Let them know that one big snow storm for instance, means that a personal care aide might not have a way to show up, or that power outages mean you’ll need to find a way to get oxygen or be taken to the hospital because they have power. And, that too many days without power, means your wheelchair and other assistive technology won’t work at all.

MAKE CHECKLIST and STOCK UP! Make a couple of checklists and e-mail it to yourself or use a note-taking app to keep it handy. If a friend of relative was out at the store and they offered to get some things for you, the list would be there and you could simply cut and paste items needed and send it to them. Moreover, when you’re stressed or in dire need, it’s harder to think about the things you need and you’ll likely forget something important.

You should also consider buying ice melt and rock salt now, for the snow and for the walkways before everyone needs these items and stores run out.
No one likes to feel helpless and we need to realize that people want to be of assistance, they just aren’t sure how. A little planning for the worst can go a long way and nothing is better than peace of mind.

Below, I’ve listed additional resources to help you prepare for any natural disaster or severe weather event. Fall may be here now, but old man winter is just around the corner.

Resources - This is an online community of your neighbors. Simply enter your zip code and find groups of people that live near and around you. On this site, neighbors post things like free baby clothes, couches and people offering services such as handyman and repair, etc. Recently, what I found interesting was someone on my local list offering everyone an opportunity to add their name to a list of people who would like to be contacted about snow removal. This was a wonderful thing. Whenever snow is coming, you’ll find a willing person who is able to move it. You’ll also want to be sure to get cash and have it on hand for the upcoming snow days.

Many landscaping companies also now offer snow removal because there is little landscaping to be done in winter months. Why not call them now, ask about signing up and get estimates.

Nobody Left Behind the result of a three-year study to investigate 30 county level or equivalent emergency management sites across the United States that had experienced a recent disaster. Geared toward assisting persons with mobility disabilities.

Preparing for Disaster for People with Disabilities and other Special Needs - developed by FEMA and the American Red Cross to assist people with disabilities to prepare for all kinds of emergencies.

Guide to Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Recovery at - geared toward people with disabilities and their families and their caregivers prepare for emergencies. provides a list of additional resources to help prepare for emergencies and disasters.
Effective Emergency Preparedness Planning for Employers  - resources around emergency planning and steps employers can take in the workplace to ensure and promote emergency preparedness for people with disabilities.

Finally, even your local Dollar Tree wants to help you with your emergency preparedness and they have a free list of items (all of them from Dollar Tree and thus costing a dollar) that provides an economical way to check items off on your list. Get your Dollar Tree list here: