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Portland Bureau of Emergency Management

Readiness. Response. Recovery.

Phone: 503-823-4375

Fax: 503-823-3903

TDD: 503-823-3947

Preparing for Disaster for People with Disabilities and Other Special Needs

For the millions of Americans who have physical, medical, sensory or cognitive disabilities, emergencies such as fires, floods and acts of terrorism present a real challenge. The same challenge also applies to the elderly and other special needs populations. Protecting yourself and your family when disaster strikes requires planning ahead. The following information will help you get started. Discuss these ideas with your family, friends and/or personal care attendant, or anyone else in your support network and prepare an emergency plan. Post the plan where everyone will see it, keep a copy with you and make sure everyone in your plan has a copy.

Create a Personal Support Network

Organize a personal support network of relatives, co-workers, friends and neighbors who can help you prepare for a disaster and assist you after a disaster happens.They should know your capabilities and needs, and be able to provide help within minutes.

Complete a Personal Assessment

Decide what you will be able to do for yourself and what assistance you may need before, during and after a disaster. This will be based on the environment after the disaster, your capabilities and your limitations.

  • Personal Care- Do you regularly need assistance with personal care, such as bathing and grooming? Do you need adaptive equipment to help you get dressed?
  • Water Service- What will you do if water service is cut off for several days or you are unable to heat water?
  • Personal Care Equipment - Do you use a shower chair, tub transfer bench or similar equipment?
  • Adaptive Feeding Devices - Do you use special utensils that help you prepare or eat food independently?
  • Electricity-Dependent Equipment - How will you continue to use equipment that runs on electricity, such as dialysis, electrical lifts, etc.? Do you have a safe back-up power supply and how long will it last?
  • Disaster Debris- How will you cope with the debris in your home or along your planned exit route following the disaster?
  • Transportation- Do you need a specially equipped vehicle or accessible transportation?
  • Errands- Do you need to get groceries, medications and medical supplies? What if your caregiver cannot reach you because roads are blocked or the disaster has affected him or her as well?
  • Building Evacuation- Do you need help to leave your home or office? Can you reach and activate an alarm? Will you be able to evacuate independently without relying on auditory cues (such as noise from a machine near the stairs - these cues may be absent if the electricity is off or alarms are sounding)?
  • Building Exits- Are there other exits (stairs, windows or ramps) if the elevator is not working or cannot be used? Can you read emergency signs in print or Braille? Do emergency alarms have audible and visible features (marking escape routes and exits) that will work even if electrical service is disrupted?
  • Getting Help- How will you call or summon the help you will need to leave the building? Do you know the locations of text telephones and phones that have amplification? Will your hearing aids work if they get wet from emergency sprinklers? Have you determined how to communicate with emergency personnel if you don't have an interpreter, your hearing aids aren't working or you don't have a word board or other augmentative communication device?
  • Mobility Aids/Ramp Access- What will you do if you cannot find your mobility aids? What will you do if your ramps are shaken loose or become separated from the building?
  • Service Animals/Pets- Will you be able to care for your animal (provide food, shelter, veterinary attention, etc.) during and after a disaster? Do you have another caregiver for your animal if you are unable to meet its needs? Do you have the appropriate licenses for your service animal so you will be permitted to keep it with you should you need to choose to use an emergency public shelter?

Source: Together We Prepare Oregon, pages 10-11.