Caring for those with Functional Needs in a Disaster
The City of Garland Office of Emergency Management is providing information to assist our citizens that are medically fragile, disabled or have other functional needs about how to plan for an emergency or disaster that may necessitate having to stay at home for several days, or to evacuate from their home or community.
An emergency or disaster can affect people in many different ways, and for some people it can mean a matter of life and death.
- Suppose there was a fire in a building and you were on the top floor, in a wheelchair, and the elevators cannot be used. How do you get to safety?
- Maybe there is a tornado. You may get trapped in debris but are otherwise okay. How do you call for help?
- Or it could be one of Garland’s surprise winter or ice storms with winds or ice that knocks down electrical poles, taking out power in many areas of the city, leaving residents possibly with no heat. What should you do prepare in advance?
- In the case of a flood, you must evacuate your home for a few days. How can you be sure rescuers know about you if you live alone or there is no one to help?
The above situations show the importance of planning for special populations.
The best time to prepare for an emergency is well ahead of time. When you prepare from a position of safety and calm, you and your caregivers can better cope with an emergency or disaster situation when it happens. An emergency or disaster may present unique challenges for people with disabilities and special needs. If you or someone you care for has a disability or special need, you may have to take additional steps to prepare yourself and your family.
Here's what you need to get ready for an emergency or disaster:
- Form a Personal Support Network: These are the people you should involve in your emergency planning and can help you in an emergency situation. Most importantly, you should not rely on just one person, but have at least three or more people you can call on for help. Include all caretakers in your planning process.
- Complete a Personal Assessment: Make a list of your personal needs and your resources for meeting support network in a disaster environment. There are checklists available to help you plan. In most cases, your case manager or disability advocates can assist you.
- Keep 7-14 days of medications on hand. Have a list of all medications taken (dosages and schedules) and store this list in a designated safe place so it can be located quickly in an emergency.
- Notify your power provider of all power-dependent life support equipment. Plan for an alternate power source in the event that you do lose power.
- Be Informed: Know about the specific hazards that threaten your community (winter storms, tornadoes, flooding, etc.), and learn about community warning systems. Garland citizens with disabilities and special needs should register with our Registry. Contact us to out more on how to register with our Functional Needs Registry.
If you or someone in your household has functional needs, it’s important to incorporate them into your disaster plans. For planning assistance beyond what you can find in this website, please contact our office for more specific information and resources.
Emergency Preparedness Tips for Persons with Mobility Issues
- Store emergency supplies in a pack or backpack attached to a walker, wheelchair, scooter, etc.
- Store needed mobility aids (canes, crutches, walkers, wheelchairs) close to you in a consistent, convenient and secured location. Keep extra aids in several locations, if possible.
Emergency Supply Kit
- Keep a pair of heavy gloves in your supply kit to use when wheeling or making your way over glass and debris.
- If you use a motorized scooter, consider having an extra battery available.
- Check with your vendor to see if you will be able to charge batteries by either connecting jumper cables to a vehicle battery or by connecting batteries to a specific type of converter that plugs into your vehicle’s cigarette lighter in the event of electricity outages.
- If your chair does not have puncture proof tires, keep a patch kit, an extra supply of inner tubes or a can of “seal in air product” to repair flat tires.
- Store a lightweight manual wheelchair, if available.
- Arrange and secure furniture and other items to provide paths of travel and barrier-free passages.
- If you spend time above the first floor of a building with an elevator, plan and practice using alternative evacuation methods. If needed, establish a personal support network.
- If you cannot use the stairs, discuss lifting and carrying techniques that will work for you. There will be instances when wheelchair users will have to leave their chairs behind in order to safely evacuate a structure.
- Transporting someone down stairs may not be practical without sufficient help available. Persons using a wheelchair should instruct any volunteers on the safest way to transport them and advise regarding areas of vulnerability. For example, the traditional "firefighter's carry" might be hazardous for some people with respiratory weakness.