All individuals, including people with disabilities, should take the time to prepare for survival at home, in a shelter, or elsewhere in the event of an actual emergency. Now is the time to plan ahead for what you may need to stay safe, healthy, informed, mobile, and independent during a disaster.

As you prepare, consider all the strategies, services, devices, tools and techniques you use to live with a disability on a daily basis. Keep in mind that you may need medications, durable medical equipment, consumable medical supplies, your service animal, assistive technology, communications tools, disability service providers, accessible housing, transportation, and health-related items.

Create a support network to help you plan for an emergency. Consider family, neighbors, friends, people who provide services to you, faith-based and community groups. Tell these people where you keep your emergency supplies. Give at least one member of your support network a key to your house or apartment.

Contact your city or county government’s emergency information management office and work with them to use their emergency planning resources.

Keep contact information for local independent living centers and other disability services organizations in a safe and easy-to-access place. If you provide any organizations or service providers with information about your functional needs and what you may require in an emergency, keep that data up to date.

If you use in-home support services, Meals-on-Wheels, Life Alert or other support services, work with them to personalize emergency preparedness plans to meet your needs so you can keep in touch with them during and after an emergency. That contact may be your lifeline to other services in a disaster.

Develop back-up plans for personal assistance services, hospice, or other forms of in-home assistance.

Work with local transportation and disability services (e.g., paratransit, independent living centers) to plan ahead for accessible transportation if you may need that for evacuation or other reasons during a disaster.

Keep in mind that during an emergency, you may need to explain to first responders and emergency officials that you need to evacuate and shelter with your family, service animal, caregiver, or personal assistance provider so they can provide the support you need to maintain your health, safety and independence.

Depending on your needs, items for your GoBag may include:

  • Extra eyeglasses and/or hearing aids if you have them, or have coverage for them
  • Battery chargers and extra batteries for hearing aids, motorized wheelchairs, or other battery-operated medical or assistive technology devices
  • Copies of medical prescriptions, doctors orders, and the style and serial numbers of the support devices you use
  • Medical alert tags or bracelets or written descriptions of your disability and support needs, in case you are unable to describe the situation in an emergency
  • Medical insurance cards, Medicare/Medicaid cards, physician contact information, and a list of your allergies and health history
  • A list of the local non-profit or community-based organizations that know you or assist people with access and functional needs similar to yours
  • A list of personal contacts, family and friends that you may need to contact in an emergency
  • A laminated personal communication board, if you might need assistance with being understood
  • If possible, extra medicine, oxygen, insulin, catheters or other medical supplies you use regularly
  • Supplies for your service animal

Even if you do not use a computer yourself, consider putting important information onto a portable thumb drive for easy transport in an evacuation.

If you receive dialysis or other life-sustaining medical treatment: Identify the location and availability of more than one facility and work with your provider to develop your personal emergency plan.

If you use a wheelchair or other assistive devices: Plan for how you will evacuate in an emergency and discuss it with your care providers. If you use a motorized wheelchair, have a lightweight manual chair available as a backup for emergencies. Know the size and weight of your wheelchair, in addition to whether or not it is collapsible, in case it has to be transported. Show others how to operate your wheelchair or other assistive devices.

If you are blind or visually impaired: Keep an extra cane by your bed. Attach a whistle; in case you need to attract attention. Exercise caution when moving, paths may have become obstructed.

If you are hearing impaired: Keep extra batteries for your hearing aids with emergency supplies. Consider storing your hearing aids in a container attached to your nightstand or bedpost, so you can locate them quickly after a disaster.

If you have a communication disability: Store paper, writing materials, copies of a word or letter board and preprinted key phrases in your emergency kit, your wallet, purse, etc.