Persons With Disabilities

Disaster Preparedness and Persons with Disabilities General Public Image - Persons with Disabilities

In many ways, persons with disabilities can and should prepare for disasters in the same way as do others using the preparedness resources on this website, including those on:

1. There are some special considerations, however, in preparedness and preparation for people with disabilities. 

  • Consider in your planning how your disability may affect your response to various disasters.  Conduct a personal assessment of your usual needs for assistance and your resources for meeting them, and then consider how your adaptation might change in response to a disaster.  Be certain to include in your assessment such considerations as:
  • Daily living needs(Do you require assistance with personal care, such as bathing and grooming? Do you use adaptive equipment to help you get dressed?)
  • Personal Care Equipment(Do you use a shower chair, tub-transfer bench, or other similar equipment?)
  • Adaptive Feeding Devices (Do you use special utensils that help you prepare or eat food independently?)
  • Electricity-Dependent Equipment and Water Needs (How will you continue to use equipment that runs on electricity, such as dialysis, electrical lifts,  and rechargeable wheelchairs?)
  • Mobility and transportation (How will your disability influence your evacuation of your living space should that be required, or your coping of the debris in your home and community following the disaster?  How will your transportation needs be affected?)
  • Assistance needs (Do you usually require assistance in buying groceries, medications, and medical supplies?  If you depend on only one person to shop or run errands for you, what will you do if the disaster has affected him or her?)
  • Service Animals/Pets Will you be able to care for your animal (provide food, shelter, veterinary attention, etc.) during and after a disaster? Do you have another caregiver for your animal if you are unable to meet its needs?
  • Do you have needs for a service animal? Will you be able to care for your animal (provide food, shelter, veterinary attention, etc.) during and after a disaster?  Do you have another caregiver for your animal if you are unable to meet its needs?


2.  Make a personal disaster plan that takes into consideration your disability, and give copies of this plan to your caregivers and loved ones. Keep copies of your disaster plan in your disaster supplies kit, car, wallet (behind driver’s license or primary identification card), wheelchair pack, or at work, etc.  Elements of this plan should include:

  • An emergency information list  to let others know whom to call if they find you unconscious or unable to speak, or if they need to contact others.
  • a medical information list with:
    • the name and nature of your disability
    • name and hospital affiliation of your primary physician
    • your insurance information
    • blood type and any allergies and sensitivities
    • medications and dosages
    • physical limitations adaptive equipment and vendors’ phones communication difficulties

3. Information to aid in your self-advocacy during a disaster.  Although others may be available and compassionate to your needs, you may also have to educate them about your disability and an appropriate response to it, through rehearsing or (if your disability requires it) writing down statements such as:

• ”Please take my___________ (Oxygen tank, wheelchair, gamma globulin from the freezer, insulin from the refrigerator, communication device from under the bed)
• ”Please do not straighten my knees. They are fused in a bent position.”
• ”I have had a brain injury.  Please write down all important instructions and information.”
• ”I am Blind/visually impaired. Please let me grasp your arm firmly.”
• ”I am deaf. Please write things down for me.”

The best way to cope with a disaster is to learn about the challenges you might face and anticipate in advance how you could meet your personal needs in a disaster.  Such preparation will help you be ready when disaster strikes, and help you achieve a self-confidence based on knowledge, preparation, and practice.

This information is adapted and modified from the excellent Red Cross pamphlet,
Preparing for Disaster for People with Disabilities and Other Special Needs

Additional Resources

The American Red Cross has a safety guide for disasters and people with disabilites. Their safety guide covers general information on several important areas.

Americans with Disabilities Act homepage has numerous important resources for people with disabilities.  Concerns regarding legal rights, enforcement, accessibility and more can be answered here.

The Parent Center Hub has helpful resources for parents of children with disabilities.

A variety of other disability-related organizations can be found here.