Advice on how disabled people can prepare for an emergency
In the event of an emergency, disabled people can find themselves confronted with particular and new challenges, such as:
- the existence of new physical barriers such as blocked roads, or the addition of new but less accessible transport routes
- disruption to landline or mobile networks
- disruption to the delivery of critical services such as Meals on Wheels
- emergency services are less available, and
- following an emergency, replacement adapted homes and employment are harder to find.
In case of an emergency situation, it would be helpful if you could identify yourself as a disabled people to emergency staff and highlight any access needs you might have. There are also some things you can do to help prepare for an emergency.
1) Establish a personal support network
A personal support network is made up of individuals who will check with you in an emergency to ensure you are okay and to give assistance if needed. This network can consist of friends, relatives, personal care workers or neighbours you know well. Services provided by personal care workers may not be available in an emergency situation and therefore it's important that your network consists of a range of different people. Include relatives or friends in your network who live outside your immediate area.
- Agree and practice a communications system regarding how to contact each other in an emergency. Don't count on the telephones working.
- Exchange important keys.
- Show where you keep your emergency supplies.
- Share copies of your relevant emergency documents with appropriate members of the network.
- It's a good idea to for you and your personal support network to notify each other when you are going out of town and when you will return.
2) Create an Emergency Health Information Card
Make your own card which includes information on your access needs and medication for example. Consider keeping copies in wallet, purse and your emergency supply kit.
3) Collect and Store Emergency Documents
Consider gathering together the following key documents:
- specifications for adaptive equipment (in case it needs to be replaced)
- insurance policy numbers
- proof of ownership or lease of your residence
- photos of all valuables for documentation of insurance claim
- family records
- list of style and serial numbers of any medical devices you have (such as a pacemaker).
Store these documents in a tightly sealed freezer bag and keep them with your emergency supplies (see below). Think about keeping an additional set of these documents with an appropriate member of your personal support network.
4) Conduct an Ability Self-Assessment
Evaluate your capabilities and limitations based on your surroundings, to help you best cope in the event of an emergency. Your assessment could include the following:
- are there large objects that might fall and block your escape route? If so, try to get them moved at some point.
- can you carry your emergency supplies alone
- do you know how to turn off your utilities and where they are located (gas, water, electricity)
- if you have a reduced or limited sense of smell, alert your personal support network to check gas leaks
- how to operate and safely move your essential equipment. Consider attaching simple to read and understand instructions
- how to safely transport you if you need to be carried
- how to provide personal assistance services.
5) Collect emergency supplies, or have a list of where to find them quickly
Gather together a range of things you will need if there is an emergency. These may include:
- your Emergency Health Information Card
- your pack of emergency documents
- instructions on any personal assistance needs you may have and how best to meet them
- disability-related supplies and equipment.
- seven day supply (or as much as possible) of essential medications, and clear instructions on dosage etc
- a signalling device (e.g. whistle, beeper, bell)
- a small flashlight
- a small battery operated radio and extra batteries
- if necessary, emergency support for service animals.
A suggested container for these supplies could be a backpack or drawstring bag which can be hung from a wheelchair or other assistance device.
6) When travelling
Identify yourself to hotel staff as someone who might need assistance in an emergency.
7) Practise your assertiveness skills
Practise giving clear, specific directions in how to help you in an emergency. If necessary, practise explaining clearly what medication you take and how.
Additional Information and resources
For more general information about preparing for and dealing with a major emergency, see our emergencies page.
The information on this page is taken from guidance available on Bristol City Council's website.
Last reviewed: 11 - 07 - 2012