For caregivers, planning and careful attention to detail is the best way to create an effective disaster plan. In addition to the typical components of a disaster plan such as special contacts, meeting places and emergency kit components, you must also take into account the special needs of the person you care for. The Florida Division of Emergency Management encourages caregivers of persons with disabilities/special needs to consider the following when preparing the ones you watch over for a disaster situation.
1. Complete an Individual Assessment of Daily Needs
Having a detailed, predetermined list of daily living requirements and medical needs will ensure caregivers have accounted for everyday necessities when there isn't a moment to spare. Visit the Emergency Kit and What to Bring to a Shelter sections of the site for a more detailed listing of items to include. Particular attention should be given to the following materials:
- Special equipment for feeding or respiration
- Particular foods to meet dietary requirements
- Personal care equipment such as a shower bench
- Regular medical treatments and/or regimens
- Step-by-step instructions for other caregivers should you need their support
- Communications equipment such as adaptive hearing or sight devices
- Additional energy sources for electricity-dependent equipment
- Minimum two-week supply of medicine or prescriptions
- Mobility aids such as a wheelchair or walker
- Service animals and supplies for their feeding and care
2. Make Medical Arrangements
If the person you care for relies on special medical equipment, medications or treatments, be sure to include arrangements for those services in advance of an imminent disaster. Know how to operate back-up equipment and create an emergency plan with your regular service providers (i.e. home care, transportation, dialysis, etc.) to ensure the individual you are assisting receives the attention they need to survive. Talk to providers about their disaster plans and find out how to contact them in the event of an emergency. In addition, seek out information about additional, back-up providers and how they could possibly help you in your time of need. In addition, courses with American Red Cross can teach you first aid and CPR/AED (Automated External Defibrillation) should help be too far away to accommodate the person you care for.
3. Learn About Community Disaster Plans
Every community in Florida has a local emergency management office that can help inform you about your community's disaster plan. The person you care for may be able to preregister for admittance to a special needs shelter, which could provide additional medical or transportation assistance in an emergency situation. Your local emergency management office can also provide you with a list of general population shelters, evacuation and community response plans, as well as information on how to register with the local utility company if the person you care for is electricity-dependent because of medical equipment. Your utility company should be able to flag the household to bring power back quickly. Also, consider purchasing your own generator and battery back-ups.
In addition to the local emergency management office, call your area hospitals to learn what services they could provide in times of emergencies for those with critical medical needs. If the person you care for requires the assistance of a service animal, find out which shelters will admit the animal.
Integrate Your/Your Family's Plan With That of Person You Care For
For the thousands of Floridians who have physical, mobility, sensory or cognitive disabilities, disasters or emergencies such as acts of terrorism, natural disasters and fires present a real challenge not only for that individual, but also for their caretakers. Protecting your family and the person you care for requires planning ahead.
If your family doesn't already have a disaster plan, the Florida Division of Emergency Management has a step-by-step tool that will help you prepare for any disaster situation. Click here to start your Family Disaster Plan.
Additionally, many resources found on this site can help you prepare the person you care for with an emergency plan that coincides with your personal/family plan. Discuss your plan with your family, friends or personal care attendant to ensure all parties understand the unique emergency procedures for persons with disabilities/special needs.