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People with Disabilities and Access and Functional Needs

It is important to remember that each person’s needs differ, but everyone can take steps to get ready for various types of emergencies. Planning today can help you be prepared for an emergency tomorrow. Refer to the "A Path to Preparedness Guide" from the District of Columbia’s Department of Health and Office of Disability Rights by clicking here.

When making an Emergency Plan for People with Disabilities and Access and Functional Needs:

  • Keep a list of phone numbers for your doctors, pharmacy, service providers and medical facilities.
  • Ask your local pharmacy or doctor to provide a list of your prescription medicine and any medically prescribed devices.
  • Keep your medical insurance cards, Medicare or Medicaid card, a list of your allergies and your health history.
  • Wear your own medical alert tag or bracelet, if you own one, and keep written descriptions of your disability and support needs, in case you are unable to describe the situation in an emergency.
  • If possible, stock extra over-the-counter and prescription medicine, oxygen, insulin, catheters, feeding tubes, cannulas, tubing, trach tubes, wipes, pads, undergarments, ostomy supplies, leg bags, adhesive or any other medical supplies you may use.
  • Keep a list of any allergies or chemical or environmental sensitivities you have and be sure to include in your emergency kit any cleaning, filtering and personal items that you may be able to use to decrease the impact of irritants as much as possible.
  • If you rely on a medical provider or organization to receive life sustaining medical treatment such as dialysis, oxygen, or cancer treatment, work with the provider in advance of an emergency to identify alternative locations where you could continue to receive treatment if you are unable to go to your regular medical provider.
  • If you receive in-home assistance or personal assistance services such as meals on wheels, work with your provider agency in advance to develop an emergency backup plan for continued care.
  • If you are dependent on electricity for a wheelchair or any life-sustaining device, contact Pepco’s customer care service center at 202-833-7500 to enroll in their Emergency Medical Equipment Notification Program and ensure that they have a current address and telephone number for you.
  • Ask how you can continue to receive services from providers such as disability, mental and behavioral health and social service providers, or medical and life alert services during emergencies.
  • Fill up your car with fuel.
  • Charge your cell phone so you will have a full battery in case you lose power.
  • Plan how to communicate with family members if you lose power. If you have a cell phone, you can call, text, email or use social media. Consider buying a solar or battery powered phone charger.
    • If you do not have a cell phone/smart phone you can use social media apps on personal devices such as game devices, Kindle or iPad, or if you have access to a computer, use an online registry such as the Red Cross “Safe and Well” website. 
  • Evacuate if told to do so by local authorities.

Persons who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing:

  • Keep extra batteries and a spare charger for hearing aids, cochlear implants and/or other personal assistive listening devices. Keep records of where you got your hearing aids including model numbers and exact types of batteries.
  • Know how to receive emergency information if you are unable to use a TV, radio or computer, such as social media or through your mobile device.

Person​s who are Blind or have Low Vision:

  • Keep Braille/text communication cards, if used, for 2-way communication.
  • Mark emergency supplies with Braille labels or large print.  Keep a list of your emergency supplies on a portable flash drive, or make an audio file that is kept in a safe place where you can access it.
  • Keep a Braille or Deaf-Blind communications device as part of your emergency supply kit.
  • Know how to use assistive technology devices, such as white canes, CCTV and text-to-speech software. Keep information about model numbers and where you purchased the equipment, etc.

Persons with Speech Disability:

  • If you use an augmentative communications device or other assistive technologies, plan how you will evacuate with the devices or how you will replace equipment if lost or destroyed.  Keep Model information, where the equipment came from (Medicaid, Medicare, private insurance, etc.), power sources (batteries/charger), and user manuals.
  • Plan how you will communicate with others if your equipment is not working, including laminated cards with phrases and/or pictograms.

Persons with Mobility Disability:

  • If you use a power wheelchair, if possible, have a lightweight manual chair available as a backup. Know the size and weight of your wheelchair in addition to whether or not it is collapsible, in case it has to be transported.
  • Purchase an extra battery for a power wheelchair or other battery-operated medical or assistive technology devices. If you are unable to purchase an extra battery, find out what agencies, organizations or local charitable groups can help you with the purchase. Keep extra batteries on a trickle charger at all times.
  • Keep a patch kit or can of sealant for flat tires and/or extra inner tube if wheelchair or scooter is not puncture proof.
  • Keep an extra mobility device such as a cane or walker, if you use one.
  • If you use a seat cushion to protect your skin or maintain your balance, and you must evacuate without your wheelchair, take your cushion with you.

Persons who need Behavior Support:

  • Plan for children with disabilities and people, who may have emotional/behavioral difficulties in unfamiliar or chaotic environments.
  • Keep handheld electronic devices preloaded with movies and games (and spare batteries/chargers), sheets and twine or a small pop up tent to decrease visual stimulation in a busy room or to provide instant privacy, headphones to decrease auditory distractions and comfort snacks and toys that meet their needs for stimulation.

When making an Emergency Plan for Households with Service Animals:

  • Make plans in advance for your service animal’s health and safety whether you both stay at home, or proceed with evacuation (See: Plan for Pets).
  • Stock food, water, portable water dish, potty pads and waste bags, and medications. Have identification, licenses, health/vaccination records, leash, harness and a favorite toy for your service animal.
  • Consider paw protection. You may be evacuating over sharp objects such as debris and broken glass.
  • If you go to a public shelter, by law all service dogs and miniature horses (but no other animals) are allowed inside and must be allowed to remain with you in all areas of the shelter. You do not need to show any proof but you may be asked to answer two questions that service animal owners are taught to anticipate. Some shelters will accommodate other service animals. Know what to expect before you need sheltering.
  • Plan for someone else to take care of your service animal following a disaster if you are not able to.