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Tips for Natural Disaster Planning for Special Needs Families

Life with a disabled child or other disabled loved one can be challenging in the best of circumstances, but when you add in the chance of weathering a natural disaster, the stress can be overwhelming. With a little planning and predictability today, the unpredictable storms of tomorrow do not have to be disastrous when the following steps are taken.

Medically dependant individuals:  Have a list of all prescriptions; list the names of medication, dosage and administering instructions. List all medical personnel familiar with your loved ones health needs, including case assigned social workers. Keep list updated and posted near your door where you can reach it quickly. This will help in situations where you were unable to bring medications. Nation wide drug stores can refill your prescriptions for you in another city or state where you have been evacuated to, providing you are already buying drugs with that retailer. To be on the safe side, take all medications with you in an emergency. Refills might not be available for several days. Store all drugs in a zip lock bag with instructions printed on an index card inside the bag. Label the card and the bag with a water proof marker for easy identification.

People with insulin dependant diabetes need to be especially careful to keep an extra supply bag packed at all times. Make sure to have medical information as well as sugar free snacks which might not be available at a shelter.

For wheelchair dependants, make sure you know the weight, size, and whether or not the wheelchair collapses. Make sure identification is on the chair. If you allow another person to transport your loved one in the wheelchair, make sure that they understand how it operates.

Autism and evacuation: If your child has hearing sensitivity, shelters can be very difficult. Carry ear muffs or ear plugs with you. Take comfort toys or objects.  Bring communication devices or PEC’s communication board. For children on a casein and gluten free diet, pack a bag of gfcf foods. Rice milk, gfcf cookies, pretzels, canned meats, and soups will help you to keep your child gfcf.  Keeping some supplies packed and in the car will help in emergency situations. 

If diapers are needed, have a 24 hour supply plus wipes, disposable gloves and diaper disposable plastic bags in a small bag. Make sure the bag is clearly labeled with a water proof marker.

Individuals with special needs should wear medical alert identification tags. Contact your local Sheriff or Police office.  Let them know you have a special needs individual that requires extra time in the event of an evacuation. Ask to be notified first if possible.

Natural disasters do not have to become personal disasters when emergencies strike. Taking time today to be prepared will allow you to have greater peace of mind in an emergency situation. A smooth transition will allow your special needs individual to carry on without further disrupting their lifestyle.