Tag: emergency preparedness

Getting Ready for Emergencies

three circles with symbols for a medical case, a house, and a heartI am a patient advocate for people with medical problems and disabilities. It is important for people with medical needs and disabilities to plan for emergencies. When a disaster strikes, rescue workers may not be able to reach everyone who needs help. People with disabilities who are not rescued may have more trouble than other people.

Do you know what you and your family need to stay safe in an emergency?

Storms, loss of electric power, floods, fires, and other problems can cause special issues for people with disabilities. A few years ago, Hurricane Sandy hit New York. Thousands of people lost power, or were stuck in their houses. Some of those people had disabilities and other special needs. Rescue squads could not help them for many days. These people had no electric power, medical supplies, or clean food and water. Some of the people with medical problems became very sick. These people became so ill, they had go to the hospital when they were rescued.

Medical workers learned an important lesson from this: people with disabilities need special help to get ready for emergencies.

Below are tips to help people with disabilities plan for disasters and emergencies:

First, answer these questions:

  1. How many people living with you need special medical help, or have a disability? For each person with special needs:
    1. Write down, or have someone write, a list of medications. List meds like insulin, seizure pills, or pain meds.
    2. List medical machines. Include feeding pumps or IV pumps. List oxygen and breathing machines.
    3. List supplies like urine catheters, ostomy bags, or central line supplies.
    4. List wheelchairs, canes, and walkers, too.
    5. Are there any service animals? Count them as well!
  1. If your house or building loses power, can you still get what you need?
    1. How long can your machines run before they have to be plugged in?
    2. How long do your medications last if they can’t stay cold in your fridge?
    3. Write down or tell someone the number of hours you can be safe with no electric power. This is important to know!
  1. Can you leave your house or building without special help?
    1. If you live in a building with stairs, can you get out if the elevators do not work?
    2. Does someone in your house have a car? Can you or the person with a disability ride in that car? Can a friend or relative come and get you?
    3. If you cannot ride in a car, or don’t have one, write that down. During a crisis, travel on trains, buses, or taxis may not be possible.
  1. If you have to leave your home or building, where will you go?
    1. Where is your local shelter? You can call your town hall to find out.
    2. Ask them: Is the shelter handicap accessible?
    3. Where is the closest hospital with an Emergency Room?

After you answer these questions, you can plan for an emergency.

If you may get stuck in your house in an emergency, you must make a careful plan. First, try to buy a machine to make electricity if the power goes out. It is called a generator. It can be found at stores like Home Depot. You may need help with money for a generator. They can be costly.

 Here are some people who may help you get a generator:

  1. If you live in an apartment, ask your landlord to help.
  2. Call your department of developmental services to ask for help.
  3. Ask your electric company.
  4. Ask your fire station.
  5. If you use a breathing machine or medical pumps, your medical company may be able to help.

All of these people may know of special money the state or city has to help you buy a generator.

Next, call your power company.

  1. Tell them you are a person with a disability or medical needs.
  2. Tell them you need electric power to stay safe.
  3. Ask how they can help you in an emergency.

They may be able to fix power lines to your home faster. They may put your name on a list of people to help first.

Then, call your Fire Station.

Many fire stations keep lists of people who have special needs. They want to know if you may be stuck in your house during a crisis.

  1. Call your closest fire station.
  2. Tell them you have medical needs or a disability.
  3. Ask how they can help you in a crisis.

If the fire station knows you are a person with a disability, they may be able to send rescue workers to your house faster.

Getting Ready at Home.

Put together important information you will need in an emergency.

  1. Make a list of important information
    1. Write your doctors’ names and phone numbers
    2. List all of your medications.
    3. List special machines you use like wheelchairs, feeding pumps, or breathing machines.
  2. Put a copy of this paper on your fridge.
  3. Put a copy in a folder near your phone.
  4. Make a copy for your car if you have one.
  5. Make a copy for a special “go” bag to take with you in a crisis.

Make a “GO” bag:

A “GO” bag is a special bag with supplies you will need to stay safe in an emergency. Here is how to make one:

  1. Find a large bag or backpack.
  2. Put in all of the medical supplies you need to be safe for three days.
    1. Include items like urine supplies, and ostomy bags.
    2. If you use medical pumps, put in bags and tubing for each pump.
    3. Put in tubing for any breathing machines you use.
    4. Put in any special bandages and dressings you need.
    5. Put in extra batteries for your machines.
  3.  Next, add three days of extra medication to your bag.
  4. Add three days of special foods you use, like medical formula.
  5. If you have a service animal, put in food for them too!
  6. Next, put three days of extra clothing in the bag.
  7. Last, put in a copy of the paper with your doctor’s numbers, medications, and list of your special machines.

Decide where you will go.

If you leave your house or are rescued in an emergency, where will you stay? Every city has buildings set up for emergencies. They are called shelters. Often, shelters are schools, churches, or city buildings in your neighborhood.

  1. Call your city and ask where to find the shelter near you.
  2. Find out if that shelter has a generator to make electricity.
  3. Ask if it can keep medical machines running.
  4. Ask if they can keep special medications cold?
  5. Will they take a service animal, if you have one?
  6. Can a wheelchair get into the building?


If your nearby shelter cannot keep you safe, ask your city if they have a special shelter for people with disabilities. If not, go to the closest hospital with an ER. All hospitals have generators to make power. They can keep you safe.

More information:

  • The State of Massachusetts has other tips to help you with emergencies.

Go to: www.readysafehealthy.org

  • The Boston Public Health Commission can also give you tips.

Call: (617)534-5395

  • DURING AN EMERGENCY, the Massachusetts Service Center can give you information.

Call: +211

Be Prepared: Resources to Assist People with Disabilities in Planning for an Emergency

Over the past month we have discussed the need for emergency preparedness and the positive impact training has made on people with disabilities. This week, I would like to share additional resources related to emergency preparedness. The following sites provide valuable information for all.

MA Emergency Shelters

Disability Policy Consortium Publications
Scroll to a section marked “DPC Emergency Preparedness Discussion Papers”. The Shelter List is first in that section;  click “Get”.
**PLEASE NOTE: This is only a partial list and some information may be out of date. Contact your town’s fire, police, or emergency manager to ask about shelter locations.

Emergency Supplies

FEMA Basic Disaster Supplies Kit
FEMA offers examples of what to include in your emergency supply kit.

“ICE” Your Phone

How to “ICE”, In Case of Emergency, Your Phone
Add emergency contact numbers of friends and family to your cell phone by putting the word “ICE” in front of them. ICE stands for “In Case of Emergency” and responders will look for it. For instructions (and a free sticker) visit this site. If you don’t have a cell phone, write the numbers down and store them in a safe place.

Personal Emergency Plan Template (large print)

Disability Policy Consortium Publications
Go to the 2nd item on that page and click “Get”. This will allow you to fill in specific information about yourself and carry it with you in an emergency.

Power Outage Planning for Medical Equipment

Home Use Devices / How to Prepare for and Handle Power Outages for Medical Devices that Require Electricity
Published by the Food and Drug Administration, the Center for Devices and Radiological Health, and the Department of Health and Human Services.

This booklet asks specific questions about any assistive equipment you may use. Answering them will increase knowledge about your equipment, and what to do in case of a power outage.


Active Planning: Response and Planning for Cities and Towns

Join the Active Planning Project at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center and receive a  free emergency response training. This information is extremely valuable for public health and public safety emergency responders, planners and managers in learning more about emergency response for people with disabilities. As part of the process, we help you hold a meeting with the local disability community to review your town’s emergency plan for gaps.

To schedule your town’s training or for more information contact:  Patrick Gleason at 781-642-0128 or Patrick.Gleason@umassmed.edu

Emergency Preparedness Training for Self-Advocates

Nate Trull, self-advocate, is available to provide free, two-part emergency preparedness trainings to self-advocates and organizations in Massachusetts.

For more information, or to schedule a training with Nate, please contact  Patrick Gleason at 781-642-0128 or Patrick.Gleason@umassmed.edu

Emergency Preparedness Training Makes Great Impact On Individuals With Disabilities

Nate, Mary and Brian sharing their " to go" bags at Minute Man ArcThis week’s blog entry includes comments from Mary Blauvelt, who attended an emergency preparedness training given by self-advocate Nate Trull in 2010. Read on for more of her thoughts.

As a Board Member for Minuteman ARC based in Concord, Massachusetts, and co-president of its internal group SAFE (Self-Advocacy For Everyone), Mary Blauvelt understands the challenges that individuals with disabilities can face. One of the biggest involves being prepared in case of an emergency. Emergencies can take any form at any time, and knowing what to do may save someone’s life. To that end, the ARC invited self-advocate Nate Trull to present a workshop in May, 2010, and a follow-up in October 2010.

Why we need to be prepared

“I hadn’t really thought about emergencies before, except when the weathermen would say a watch or warning was coming”, Blauvelt said. “But Nate’s training really taught me about why it was important for people with disabilities to be prepared. What if someone uses a wheelchair and can’t leave independently? What if someone cannot hear the news reports telling them to leave? There need to be plans, so that people with disabilities can help themselves.”

A “go bag” for everyone

GO Bags
Blauvelt especially liked Trull’s recommendation of a “go bag”; that is, an easily portable bag of items that you can just “grab and go” when an emergency hits.

“That was really fun and I learned a lot. We all made our own go bags during the training, and Nate helped us realize what should go in them. We put in things like a portable radio, non-perishable food and water, a list of any medicines we take, a phone with a cord, manual flashlights and batteries.”

Being prepared is helpful for all

Trull’s training covered other topics as well, like developing an emergency plan, and making a list of people who could help out in an emergency. Trull’s interest in emergencies and assisting others dates back to his time as a “Life Scout” in the Boy Scouts organization.

“Doing these emergency preparedness trainings really means a lot. I truly enjoy helping people, advocate for themselves, and increasing their knowledge when I’m done,” he said.

Blauvelt agreed, especially in her case. “I feel much better prepared for emergencies now. Nate’s presentation was very helpful, and I hope information like his will help many more people.”

Shriver Center Supports Emergency Preparedness for People with Disabilities

Dave StoweOur month-long blog on emergency preparedness continues this week with an interview of Dave Stowe. After more than 10 years as a firefighter/EMT, Dave now specializes in Emergency Management and recently completed a Master’s Degree in the field.

Read on to discover more about Dave’s thoughts on emergency preparedness for individuals with disabilities.

Q: What is your role at the Shriver Center?

A: I serve as a consulting emergency management specialist to the Shriver Center. While working on my Master’s Degree, I was immediately impressed with the Shriver Center’s efforts to help people with disabilities prepare for and respond to emergencies and disasters. Bringing awareness of the unique challenges faced by people with disabilities is important, especially to emergency responders and government officials. I knew immediately that I wanted to be part of this amazing program.

Q: How can individuals with disabilities assist responders in creating a positive and safe outcome during emergencies?

A: I believe it works best if people with disabilities and responders have met before. That way, their first meeting is calm and relaxed, not in all the noise and confusion an emergency can cause.
These meetings can take place in a variety of ways. For example, fire departments may have events open to the community at their station. Also, some towns hold community-wide readiness events (“How to Prepare for Hurricanes” for example) that fire, police, and emergency medical officers must attend. Some towns offer registries that allow disability-related information to be shared with 911 (but kept private) ahead of a disaster to make response easier.
These are all possibilities.

Also, be as specific as you can with responders about your disability. What is it called? What do you need help with? What can you do by yourself? Do you need to bring equipment with you? Even people with the same disability have different needs, so this information is very important.

Q: How has working with the Shriver Center affected your approach to thinking about emergency preparedness and response for individuals with disabilities?

A: My previous job offered no real training on interacting with individuals with disabilities; we basically learned on our own. Working with the Shriver Center has broadened my perspective and understanding of why inclusive emergency planning, preparedness and response are so important. They make individual communities more resilient when emergencies occur, and highlight the individual strengths of someone with a disability, rather than focusing solely on limitations.

Whether it’s directing people how to escape from a building, organizing support for an emergency planning meeting, or volunteering in a mock emergency drill, everyone can help their town prepare for and respond to emergencies.

Emergency Preparedness: An important topic for all

Patrick Gleason and Nate TrullThis month I am pleased to introduce Patrick Gleason, Shriver Center Staff Writer, as our guest blogger. Patrick will be introducing us to the topic of Emergency Preparedness for people with disabilities.

Nobody’s ever asked me to be a victim before.

That sentence resonates in my head as I pull my wheelchair up next to a backboard. I am participating in a mock decontamination drill at a local hospital. These drills are yearly requirements, but I will be the first individual with an actual disability to participate for this hospital (instead of someone pretending to have a disability.)

As I am gently transferred from the chair to the backboard and sent down something like a conveyer belt with two individuals dressed like Star Wars storm troopers on either side, I can’t help but think, What have I gotten myself into?

Understanding the need for being prepared

That experience marked my first true understanding of emergency preparedness and response (EP/R) for individuals with disabilities. Prior to that, my only real exposure to emergencies involved downed trees or the occasional power outage.

Since then however, over the past few years I have been forced to come up with my own solutions during several emergencies.
• Using the light from a cell phone keypad to shut off my house alarm during a storm; the power was out, my parents were gone , and I couldn’t find a flashlight.
• Borrowing a security guard’s cellphone to locate my mother; we were separated at the mall during an unexpected fire drill.

Many challenges faced

My examples are obviously small-scale. However, people with disabilities often experience devastating impacts during emergencies and disasters, including separation from critical adaptive equipment and assistive technology, service animals, support from family, friends and caregivers, and critical services. The American emergency response system traditionally has not taken into account the needs of people with disabilities, as they are not often part of the emergency planning process.

We at the Shriver Center are working to change that.

Self Advocates take role in training

Nate Trull, a longtime self-advocate who also serves as a consultant to the Shriver Center, is also well-versed and committed to educating individuals with disabilities on EP/R. Beginning with his experiences at the rank of Life Scout, his interest blossomed to include serving as chairman of his own advocacy group Powerhouse, and offering free, ongoing, EP/R training and tips to advocacy and provider agencies throughout Massachusetts. He was also invited to attend a 2011 EP/R conference sponsored by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

“I love focusing on EP/R work for people with disabilities because I help them take charge of their own lives and help themselves,” Trull says with a trademark smile. “There is nothing I would rather do.”

September is Emergency Preparedness month; we hope these blogs will help you think about your personal emergency preparedness from a variety of perspectives!