“As our region deals with wildfires that have affected several of our communities this year we continue to field calls and emails from citizens with disabilities who have been impacted throughout the Rocky Mountain area,” said Jana Burke, the director of the Rocky Mountain ADA Center.
“While each individual has unique needs and abilities, every person with a disability should take steps to prepare for emergencies and have plans in place to be better prepared for any situation,” Burke continued.
Individuals with disabilities are well-advised to evaluate their personal needs and develop emergency plans that identify what is needed to stay safe, healthy, informed, mobile, and independent during a disaster. The ADA Center outlines steps to take to develop emergency plans:
1. Create a kit of emergency supplies. A disaster kit should include supplies for at least three days. Basic items to include are water, non-perishable food, a flashlight and extra batteries, a first aid kit, important family documents, emergency reference materials, personal hygiene items, medications and medical supplies and other disability-specific supplies. For a complete list of recommended emergency supplies to include in a disaster kit, visit the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at http://www.ready.gov.
2. Develop a family emergency plan. In case of an emergency, make sure there is a way to get in contact with family members, locally and out-of-town. Take into account that cell phone service may be limited during times of emergency and have plans in place to maintain contact using other communication methods. Be sure to stay tuned to the television and radio for official instructions.
3. Create a support network. It is important to recognize that disasters can be stressful for everyone impacted, including people with disabilities. Ask family, friends, and coworkers to be part of an emergency plan. Include contact information for this support network in an emergency supply kit. Individuals should share an extra key to their home with someone in their support network. If an individual uses durable medical equipment, they need to show members of their support network how to use the devices or move them if necessary. Inform support network members about medications and other treatments being used. Individuals who use in-home support services should incorporate them into their emergency plans. Employees should inform their employers of their disability-related needs during an emergency.
4. Identify available resources. Find out what assistance is available in the community. If available, register with the local office of emergency services, the local fire department, other government agencies or disability service organizations. Work with local transportation and disability service providers to plan ahead for accessible transportation that may be needed for evacuation and other reasons during a disaster. For those who rely on durable medical equipment, identify the location and availability of more than one facility that provides service.
5. Be prepared to self-advocate. Keep in mind that during an emergency, each individual is his/her strongest advocate for access to emergency services in the community. People should be ready to explain to first responders and emergency personnel their specific needs. If evacuations occur, individuals with disabilities must explain their needs to shelter with family, a service animal, caregiver or personal assistant so they can get the support they require to be healthy, safe, and independent. Everyone should know what their access rights are under the ADA and feel comfortable in speaking up.
6. Get involved and help plan for an accessible future. As communities in the Rocky Mountain region plan for the future, it is important that people with disabilities and others interested in access issues get involved with efforts at the local and state levels to ensure that future responses to disasters are more inclusive of people with disabilities. Participate in county emergency preparedness advisory groups. Volunteer with local emergency response groups like Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT). Provide training to shelter personnel so individuals with disabilities are served in an integrated setting instead of being sent to hospitals or assisted living centers. Work with local media outlets to ensure emergency broadcasts are accessible to all citizens.
Most importantly, stay informed about what might happen and learn more about what types of emergencies are likely to affect the Rocky Mountain region. Visit ready.gov to learn more about strategies for emergency preparedness.
The ADA Center is a valuable resource for individuals with disabilities and organizations with rights and responsibilities under the ADA and can answer questions about emergency preparedness for individuals with disabilities. To contact the ADA Center directly, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call (800) 949-4232.
About the Rocky Mountain ADA Center
The Rocky Mountain ADA Center is operated by Meeting the Challenge, Inc. and provides information, training and informal guidance to individuals and organizations with rights and responsibilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Center is one of 10 regional centers funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, a division of the U.S. Department of Education, and serves a six-state region including Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming. For more information, visit http://www.adainformation.org.