Disasters can be particularly disruptive to the daily living of older adults and their caregivers. Chronic conditions that exist prior to an emergency can be exacerbated, equipment damaged or lost, and services or treatments interrupted, causing additional harm or stress. This webpage will introduce and connect you to key resources on disaster preparedness for older adults and our special needs population.
People need to plan for emergencies in anticipated and unanticipated situations including chemical, biological, radiological, explosion, transportation accidents, fire, floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, snow storms and power outages, etc.
For the millions of people with special needs around the world, surviving a disaster can be just the beginning of a greater struggle.
For people with special needs, barrier free, as well as barrier-ridden environments, become a great deal more hostile and difficult to deal with during and after an emergency. For example, people with physical disabilities may have reduced ability to get to accessible exits, as well as reduced access to their personal items and emergency supplies. People with vision and hearing loss and people with speech related disabilities often encounter many more communication barriers, especially when regular communication channels are down or overloaded. These barriers appear at a time when rapid communication may be crucial to survival and safety.
Emergency or disaster planning includes preparing yourself and your support organizations to deal with natural and manmade disasters; to support people with special needs in preparing for a disaster; and to provide education and information to ensure local and statewide emergency officials are fully prepared to address the needs of people with special needs in the event of an emergency. Often the needs of people with special needs in emergency preparedness are unaddressed or plans are not well coordinated, leaving individuals with special needs unnecessarily vulnerable in the event of an emergency.
The critical needs of individuals with special needs during an emergency include the evacuation of transit systems, getting to safe shelter in the event of a natural disaster, and full access to transportation systems when there is a need to evacuate a particular location.
If you or someone close to you has a disability or a special need, you may have to take additional steps to protect yourself and your family in an emergency. Please refer to these two booklets to assist you with your planning needs or visit the federal government's Ready website for additional information.