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Winter 2006 Table of Contents
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In an Emergency

By Beth Dennis, BCP/Transition Consultant, Division for Blind Services

Abstract: This article reviews and consolidates articles and emails circulated following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita that provided specialized advice regarding emergency preparation for parents with children who are disabled.

Key Words: News & Views, blind, visually impaired, deafblind, disability, emergency preparation, disaster

In the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, many articles were published and emails circulated providing advice for parents and caregivers of children with special health care needs. The panic and distress of dealing with an emergency can be alleviated to some extent with thoughtful preparation.

Before a Disaster

Not surprisingly, the number one tip for emergency management was to prepare for your family's needs before a disaster. Remember that telephones and cell phones may not be available after a disaster strikes, so advance preparation is a necessity. Discuss your specific needs with your support network. Give a key to family, friend or neighbor who may be able to assist you, or inform your support network where you hide the extra key.

Local emergency management offices often maintain registers of people with disabilities. Contact your local emergency management office now to register. Obtain and use a medical alert tag to identify your child's disability.

If you have pets, include the pet's needs in your planning.

Prepare an emergency kit that includes:

  1. Flashlight with extra batteries
  2. Portable, battery-operated radio and extra batteries
  3. First aid kit and manual
  4. Emergency food (including special foods or formulas) and water for at least two days per person
  5. Manual can opener
  6. Essential medication for 3-7 days
  7. Cash and credit cards (be sure to withdraw cash in advance)
  8. Sturdy shoes

Also, maintain a list of important items and store it with the emergency supplies:

  1. Special equipment and supplies
  2. Current prescriptions (names and dosages)
  3. Names, addresses, and telephone numbers of your medical providers
  4. Summary sheet of your child' medical conditions with details about medications (including dosages), assessment results and specific medical needs. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) have developed an Emergency Information Form used to record health data for children with special health care needs. Store this in the home in a place where emergency medical personnel can easily find it, and take it with you when you are traveling. The form can be located at <www.aap.org/advocacy/blankform.pdf>
  5. IEP documents, including assessments and IEP goals/objectives and adaptation sheet
  6. Summary of your child's communication style/needs

In addition, prepare an overnight kit that includes:

  1. Comfortable clothing for 2-3 days
  2. Personal hygiene items
  3. Identification and valuable documents (see next paragraph)
  4. Blankets and pillows
  5. Sleeping bags
  6. Portable (folding) chair
  7. Ear plugs and eye shades
  8. Comfort items, such as CD players and CDs (with extra batteries), DVD player and DVDs, books, favorite toys

Lastly, place an envelope in the glove box, purse or carry bag that is marked "In Case of Accident," that provides emergency information should the caretaker be unable to respond. Information should include the child's name and medical/disabling condition as well as the name and phone number of an emergency contact. Be sure to include information about the child's communication system if they are nonverbal. The doctor's name, blood type, known allergies, medication needs should also be included.

During a disaster

Most important: Be Calm! Even if you do not feel calm, it is important to project a demeanor of calm. Children will sense your emotional state and imitate it.

Secondly, check for hazards in the home. During and immediately after a disaster, ordinary items in the home can cause injury or damage — anything that can move, fall, break or cause a fire, such as bookcases, hanging pictures, overhead lights, etc. Look for displaced electrical lines. Beware of carbon monoxide poisoning: per Centers for disease Control, do not use generators, grills, camp stoves or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal-burning devices inside the home or other contained area.

This information has been consolidated from several sources, including Partners Resource Network web article, "Disaster Preparedness Tips for Our Families," FEMA report, "Disaster Preparedness for People with Disabilities," as well as several emails (author not identified) that circulated after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

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Last Revision: September 1, 2010