Flood Safety for Those with Disabilities
By Michael Jacobs
Floods are the number-one cause of weather-related deaths. For those who have disabilities, safety is of particular concern. Having issues with mobility, learning, seeing, hearing, or other special needs creates extra challenges to keeping safe when disaster is imminent.
Disaster preparedness is something everyone needs to think about and plan for. Floods can happen in the blink of an eye, so you need to know your risk of flooding. Disabled people need as much advanced warning as possible so rescuers can reach them if necessary. If there is significant rain, stay tuned to local weather on radio or television to get the latest updates. The National Weather Service also regularly issues reports. You can get the latest information and alerts based on your zip code at http://www.noaa.gov.
During a flood or other disaster, FEMA the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) regularly sets up disaster recovery centers. They provide all necessary assistance and devices for those with disabilities as do many local chapters of the Red Cross. Each agency also offers publications, information and assistance to those with disabilities and their families to utilize. Check out the website for each organization at http://www.fema.gov, and http://www.redcross.org.
Here are some tips to prepare for a flood for those with disabilities:
Planning & Preparation in Advance
Create a Support Network – Your support network can include family and friends, as well as city, local, county and state agencies that can lend assistance in cases of emergency. Have a minimum of three people that can be relied upon for help in an emergency situation. These individuals should be reliable and trustworthy and people who know your needs. Ideally, they should be able to get there within a matter of minutes to lend assistance in an emergency.
Make an Assessment – Determine what is needed by considering questions such as:
What personal care and assistance is needed?
Personal equipment – is electricity required for equipment such as dialysis machines, nebulizers, or lifts? Is a backup power supply available? What happens if potable water is cut off for a number of days during a flood?
Will assistance be necessary for transportation should it prove necessary?
What access to food and medications and emergency services are needed?
Can water, electricity and other utilities be shut off easily to keep building occupants safe in case of a flood?
Create a Plan – Arrange a meeting with family and caregivers to review information assembled, contact information and needs in case of a flood. Know the hazards around your home and your community and how to deal with each.
- Assemble a Disaster Survival Kit – Put together a kit for being able to evacuate in case of floods. This should include all medications, extra clothing, toiletries and other day-to-day needs, a cellphone, or if possible one with an extra battery, a flashlight, a distress flag, non-perishable food items and any utensils that are needed, supplies for pets and bottled water. These items can be kept in a waterproof container and should be regularly inspected with expiration dates checked and replenished with fresh supplies as they are needed.