Disability and Extreme-Weather Concerns

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Group of people and dog around shelter tables

Whoever you are and wherever you live, extreme-weather chances run high these days. And when extreme weather strikes, people with disabilities are in a high-risk bracket for serious injury.

The best protection is advance preparation.

Recommended apps for emergency preparations:

How to Prepare:

emergency preparedness essentials

Stock Up

One thing you can count on with an extreme-weather event in the forecast: there will be a buyer’s run on canned food, batteries, duct tape, and other supplies people could have had on hand—but didn’t.

Don’t be a last-minute shopper where life-and-death matters are involved. Keep important essentials in your home at all times. Essentials such as:

  • First-aid supplies.
  • A three-week to three-month supply of medications. (You may need special permission from a doctor or pharmacist to get a larger supply of prescription meds.)
  • Backup devices, extra batteries/power sources, and anything else needed to keep assistive technology at peak function.
  • Extra drinking water in case water service is interrupted.
  • Additional water for washing and personal hygiene.
  • Extra sanitizing/sterilization supplies.
  • Warm blankets.
  • Enough nonperishable food to last everyone for two weeks.
  • Food and other supplies for any pets or service animals.

Confirm Essential Information

  • Keep an up-to-date list of medications, healthcare providers, emergency contacts, and other important information. To ensure quick access, keep a copy of this list in a digital app, and keep the app on your home screen. For maximum efficiency, choose an app that lets you share files with family and emergency contacts.
  • Confirm that your regular healthcare providers can minimize interruptions to patient care. (In Texas, all state-licensed providers are required by law to have official disaster plans.)
  • Check with your health insurance provider(s) as well. They can be your best information sources if you’re cut off from your regular pharmacy and need an alternative location.
  • Know how to keep up with weather forecasts and emergency updates, especially if you have a vision, hearing, or communications impairment that requires accommodations to access the news.

Recommended apps for watching the weather:

Go or Stay?

No preparation can actually keep extreme weather away, so when the forecast looks bad, it’s decision-making time: stay home, or evacuate to safer ground?

If you’re at all uncertain that sitting out the storm will work, your safest bet is to leave as soon as possible, rather than waiting “to be sure.” By the time you’re sure, the roads are usually jammed with other last-minute evacuees, traffic is crawling at an inch an hour, and you’re in for a miserable time at best. At worst, someone in your party could have a meltdown, asthma attack, heart attack, or any number of health emergencies from being confined in stressful surroundings.

If you go:

  • Before leaving, turn off your home’s power and water at their sources.
  • Watch out for weakened roads, especially when driving a large or loaded vehicle.
  • If you don’t have a private vehicle, know in advance whom you can contact for accessible transportation. Public transportation may not be able to keep up its regular routes, and emergency-evacuation vehicles can’t always guarantee accessibility.
  • Once the weather clears, verify what shape your home area is in before you start back. Especially, verify that your power and water are on, and that you will have access to all essential services.
  • If any damage has been done to your home, don’t try to move back in until everything is professionally cleaned and evaluated. The storm may have left hidden structural damage or other hazards.
Wheelchair being lifted onto disability-services bus

If you stay:

  • Plan activities to keep your mind off the storm (and your anxiety levels minimized).
  • Plan to cover all bases in the event of a prolonged power outage. How will you keep important devices/assistive technology functioning? Do medications need to be stored in temperature-controlled environments? How will you cope with hot or cold weather if your HVAC system is out?
  • Sign up for emergency text updates to learn when the danger is truly past, and where to find services after the storm. (Your city-government website or local Easterseals office can advise you on where to register for alerts.)
Outdoor setting: two emergency-services workers talking to person in wheelchair

Finally, Always Remember:

Know your limitations, even if you don’t have an actual disability. Overreaching yourself can hurt you and your property whether or not a storm comes. When in doubt, get someone to help you reinforce the roof, clean up debris, and so on.

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