Preparedness for the Disabled

For the millions of Americans who have physical, medical, sensory or cognitive disabilities, emergencies such as fires, floods and acts of terrorism present a real challenge. One of the things learned from the response to Hurricane Katrina was that people with disabilities were disproportionately affected by the storm and its aftermath.

It is important that people with disabilities and their family members make plans to protect themselves in the event of disasters. In addition, first responders need to know how to work with people with disabilities to evacuate them safely and quickly.

Where will you, your family, your friends or personal care attendants be when an emergency or disaster strikes?

You, and those you care about, could be anywhere – at home, work, school or in transit. How will you find each other? Will you know your loved ones will be safe?

Emergencies and disasters can strike quickly and without warning and can force you to evacuate your neighborhood or confine you to your home. What would you do if basic services – water, gas, electricity or telephones – were cut off?

Local officials and relief workers will be on the scene after a disaster, but they cannot reach everyone right away.

You are in the best position to plan for your own safety as you are best able to know your functional abilities and possible needs during and after an emergency or disaster situation. You can cope with disaster by preparing in advance with your family and care attendants. You will need to create a personal support network and complete a personal assessment.

Knowing what to do is your best protection and your responsibility.


  • A personal support network (sometimes called a self-help team) can help you prepare for a disaster. They can do this by helping you identify and get the resources you need to cope effectively. Network members can also assist you after a disaster happens.

  • Organize a network that includes your home, school, workplace, volunteer site, and any other places where you spend a lot of time.

  • Members of your network can be roommates, relatives, neighbors, friends, and co-workers. They should be people you trust and who can check to see if you need assistance. They should know your capabilities and needs, and be able to provide help within minutes.

  • Do not depend on only one person. Include a minimum of three people in your network for each location where you regularly spend a lot of time since people work different shifts, take vacations and are not always available.

  • Plan how you will contact your family members by calling, or emailing, or texting agreed upon friends or relatives during an emergency. Have a backup way to communicate.

  • Let people in your support network know of your emergency plans. Tell them where you keep your emergency supplies. They may be able to assist you in ensuring that your assistive devices will go with you if you have to evacuate your home.

  • If you use oxygen or other durable medical equipment, show friends how to use these devices so they can move you or help you evacuate. Practice your plan with your personal support network.