Emergency Preparedness with FEMA 

Sean Webb Blog

As the end of the year approaches, we look forward to the upcoming holiday season filled with family gatherings and exchanging gifts. The winter season is coming, and while many consider winter storms a challenge for northern states, last winter’s storms in Texas proved the South can experience winter events too, including devastating ice storms and widespread power outages.  Because of the hazards associated with winter storms, preparation is key to mitigating injury or property damage risks.

On November 30, 2021, representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) hosted a roundtable to discuss best practices for individuals in the disability community to prepare for the winter season. Along with FEMA’s representatives, individuals from Easterseals and Pacific ADA provided their insights into ways we can all prepare for this time of year.

FEMA’s Office of Disability Integration and Coordination designed Individuals with Disabilities at Ready.gov, a website to assist the disability community to prepare for disasters. They have also published a fact sheet to help prepare for winter hazards. It is highly recommended for people to visit the website to develop an emergency plan. As Benjamin Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  In addition to developing an emergency plan, FEMA suggests considering the following for individuals with mobility disabilities:

  • If you use a power wheelchair, have a lightweight manual chair available as a backup if possible.
  • Show others how to assemble, disassemble and operate your wheelchair.
  • Purchase an extra battery for a power wheelchair or other battery-operated medical or assistive technology devices. If you can’t purchase an extra battery, find out what agencies, organizations or local charitable groups can help you buy one. Keep extra batterie are always charged.
  • Consider keeping a patch kit or can of sealant for flat tires and/or extra inner tube if the wheelchair or scooter is not puncture-proof.
  • Keep an extra mobility device such as a cane or walker if you use one.
  • Keep a portable air pump for wheelchair tires.
  • If you use a seat cushion to protect your skin or maintain your balance and you must evacuate, consider keeping an extra cushion on hand.
  • Communicate with neighbors who can assist you if you need to evacuate the building.

Additional considerations include:

  • Keep several days of prescription medicines supply.
  • Create a list of all medications, dosages, and any allergies.
  • Keep extra eyeglasses, contacts, hearing aids and batteries.
  • Keep a backup supply of oxygen.
  • Create a list of the style and serial number of medical devices (include special instructions for operating your equipment if needed).
  • Make copies of insurance and Medicare cards.
  • Develop a list of contact information for doctors, relatives or friends who should be notified if you are hurt.
  • Store pet food, extra water, a collar with ID tag, medical records and other supplies for your service or support animal.

We also encourage you to visit Easterseals | Winter Safety Tips for People with Disabilities.  Among their suggestions, they have identified the following areas to consider:

  • Consider your wardrobe.
  • Think of your wheelchair like your car.
  • Check your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.
  • Make staying warm a priority.
  • Make sure your dog is ready, too.

To organize the preparation process, the Pacific ADA Center prepared a checklist to help ensure that the necessary steps have been taken to prepare for any potential storms that may strike. The checklist largely incorporates suggestions by FEMA and Easterseals.  Additionally, this checklist provides information regarding issues such as how to purchase and use a generator, how to safely store gasoline, and how to handle power outages with equipment requiring electricity

We hope this winter season is uneventful; however, with a little preparation, we can take those necessary efforts to reduce the risks to our community and property.  The Amputee Coalition wishes everyone a happy holiday season and looks forward to an outstanding New Year!