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Spring 2019

By Cassondra Glausier, DeafBlind Program Specialist, Health and Human Services Commission               

Abstract: Preparing for an emergency or disaster is important. This article provides specific information for families of children with special needs in order to know how to be ready for emergencies.

Keywords: emergency preparedness, safety, family, resource, planning, disaster, support system, emergency plan, “go bag”, “shelter in-place box”              

Why should you prepare an emergency plan for your family? Life happens and we get busy. We’ve all probably thought about what to do in an emergency. Most, if not all of us, have good intentions but don’t follow through with them. This article will touch on the highlights of creating a plan, how you need to prepare for an emergency, and what resources are available.

Emergencies are stressful, and what is usually familiar to you can quickly become unfamiliar. Families of children with special needs require additional emergency planning. Ensuring you have a solid game plan is key to keeping you and your family safe.

When we describe an emergency, many things might come to mind. You might think of a natural disaster such as a flood, tornado, extreme heat or hurricane — all things Texas residents have been faced with. For others, an emergency can be someone having a heart attack, injuring themselves, or an intruder entering a home, school or business with intent to harm. These are all examples of emergencies we might encounter.   

Did you know there are two types of situations we need to consider when getting our game plan together? There is an emergency and then there is a disaster. An emergency is when you must get out fast. There’s no time to think about anything but getting out of the situation, such as a fire. A disaster is when you can stay at home unless you’re told to evacuate, for example a flood or hurricane.

There are things we need to include in our planning process in an emergency or disaster. The first thing is to identify your local resources. Stay informed and follow your local emergency management service alerts and other resources such as Red Cross, Salvation Army, local churches and stay connected with your neighbors. Locate your area shelters and know the evacuation routes for your home, school, business and city.  

Second, have an emergency support system in place. Choose at least three people in your local area, and if you have an out-of-state contact, choose at least one. Your support system could be a neighbor, coworker, family member, teacher or friend. Make sure you, your family and your support system have good communication and clearly understand where to meet, who to call and what to do. The people you choose should have a high level of commitment to your family and be involved in every aspect of the planning. Ensure you discuss and practice your emergency plan every three to six months. It’s a good idea to contact your support system members periodically to see if they’re still available to be part of your support system.

When working with your support system to create your emergency plan, make a simple emergency instruction sheet for your home. Include information about exits, fire extinguishers and power shut-offs. Put the emergency sheets where they can be easily seen.  Also complete an emergency information card.

English Version:  https://texasprepares.org/English/RoN_plan-cards.pdf

Spanish Version:  https://texasprepares.org/spanish/Emergency-Wallet-Cards_Spanish.pdf

Keep this card in your child’s backpack, your family’s go bags, your car and other places you might be. Try to keep electronic copies and email it to your support system.

Third, have a “go bag” ready to leave your house immediately. A go bag is a place to secure your important information in one place. Ensure you put the go bag where you spend most of your time, make it easily accessible, create a go bag for each member of your family, personalize it to fit each family member’s needs, and create a care notebook for your child with special needs.

Items to put in the go bag may include:

  • Medications
  • Insurance information
  • ID (if no ID, place a current photo of the family member with name and phone number on the back)
  • Copy of birth certificate
  • Banking information
  • Copy of Social Security cards
  • Cell phone charger
  • Reunification location
  • Household pet information
  • Emergency contact information
  • Bottled water
  • An extra change of clothes and shoes
  • Child’s favorite toy(s)
  • Snacks
  • Spare cane, eyeglasses and hearing aid batteries
  • Spare car keys
  • Cash

Be sure to place paper documents in a plastic or waterproof bag. Copies of any banking information, Social Security information, identification cards, etc. could also be given to your trusted support system.

Next, if you have to shelter in place and choose to stay in your home instead of evacuating, you must plan on having enough rations for three days for each family member in your home.

Items to place in your “shelter in-place box” could include:

  • First aid kit
  • Non-perishable food and bottled water
  • Medications
  • Blankets and pillows
  • Extra clothes
  • Copy of important documents in a waterproof bag
  • Flashlight
  • Hygiene supplies
  • Work gloves
  • Tools (for example, hammer, screwdriver and small saw)
  • Battery-operated radio
  • Household pet information
  • Emergency contact information

Include a copy of your family’s emergency plan and care notebook in your shelter in-place box, as well as your go bag.

Finally, there are several helpful resources you can use to help you create an emergency plan.

Federal Emergency Management Agency

www.fema.gov

Texas Department of State Health Services Emergency Preparedness

http://www.dshs.state.tx.us/preparedness/e-prep_public.shtm

Navigate Life Texas

https://www.navigatelifetexas.org/en/family-support/emergency-preparedness-for-families-of-children-with-disabilities

Emergency preparedness video:  https://www.navigatelifetexas.org/en/videos/video/emergency-preparedness

Care notebook: http://www.navigatelifetexas.org/en/diagnosis-healthcare/care-notebook

American Red Cross

www.redcross.org

The Emergency Email and Wireless Network

www.emergencyemail.org