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Disability Connection Newsletter - September 2015 - Disability.gov
Disability Connection Newsletter - September 2015 - Disability.gov
10 Things You Should Know about Emergency Preparedness
- America’s PrepareAthon. More than 21 million people across the U.S. are participating in preparedness activities – are you one of them? It’s not too late to sign up for America’s PrepareAthon, which takes place on September 30th and marks the end of National Preparedness Month. This nation-wide event includes activities in every state to make sure citizens know how to get ready for an emergency. Leading up to America’s PrepareAthon, learn about common hazards anddownload resources that can help you prepare forearthquakes, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires andwinter storms. Read stories about individuals, organizations and communities participating in this important initiative. FindPrepareAthon activities or add your own and help spread the word. Register online and be empowered to get prepared.
- Inclusion in Emergency Planning. Since one in five people in the U.S. has a disability, this population must be considered when planning for emergencies. The Administration for Community Living recently called for the inclusion of people with disabilities in emergency preparedness planning. If you haven’t seen it already, watch the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) “We Prepare Every Day” public service announcement (PSA) and learn about emergency preparedness for people with disabilities. “The Importance of Preparing Every Day for the Unexpected,” a recent Disability.Blog post by guest blogger Marcie Roth, director of the Office of Disability Integration and Coordination at FEMA, further drives this point home. The National Organization on Disability has also developed a guide for emergency managers, planners and responders about planning for people with disabilities in a disaster. Preparing in advance and creating a support network allows people with disabilities to be included from the start in emergency planning. Disability.gov’s Guide to Emergency Preparednessprovides additional resources.
- What to Have on Hand. Stocking up on essential items that may not be readily available during a disaster is a central part of emergency preparedness. Make sure to have at least a three-day supply of food, water and medicine for each person in your household. Choose non-perishable items such as canned and dry goods and have a gallon of bottled water per day available for each person in your household. Wheelchair users are advised to keep a manual wheelchair or cushion available. Store extra medication and medical supplies in your emergency kit. Your medications may be affected by things that happen during an emergency, such as exposure to high heat or contaminated water, so always check to make sure it’s safe to take the stored medications. Special precautions may be required for insulin. If you have a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan (Part D) and you live in a place where a state of emergency has been declared, Medicare can help with getting the medications you need. To avoid any confusion, keep copies of your prescriptions in your emergency kit for reference.
- Planning for Your Service Animal. People with disabilities who rely on service animals must also consider the animal’s needs when planning for an emergency. You’ll want to includeemergency supplies, such as food and water, a first aid kit, medications and important documents, among other items. If you must evacuate to an emergency shelter, know your rightsas a person with a service animal – service animals must be allowed in shelters, but you are responsible for its behavior. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), emergency shelter workers can only ask if the service animal is required because of a disability and what tasks it has been trained to perform. They can’t ask for documentation or certification for the service animal. Although geared towards pet owners, tips from the Humane Society and the ASPCA can also benefit people who use a service animal. For information about service animals and accommodating the needs of people with disabilities read “Making Community Emergency Preparedness and Response Programs Accessible to People with Disabilities.”
- Workplace Preparedness. Having an emergency preparedness plan at your place of work is just as important as having one at home. Under the ADA, an emergency plan at work may be considered a reasonable accommodation. Together with your employer, you can create a plan that accommodates your specific disability. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has guidelines for employers about how to talk with their employees in a non-discriminatory way about accommodations that may be needed in an emergency. Once an emergency plan is in place, employers and employees should hold emergency drillsas practice to determine if any changes should be made to the plan in order to ensure safety.
- Shelters and Accommodations. When an emergency strikes, your local emergency shelter may be the best option to stay safe. The ADA generally requires shelters to provide equal access to the many benefits that shelters provide: safety, food, services, information and a place to sleep. All parts of a shelter, from its parking and entrances to restrooms, sleeping and dining areas, medical units and beyond, must be accessible to people with disabilities. Shelters should use thischecklist of ADA requirements in order to understand how to best serve people with disabilities. When preparing to go to a shelter, complete this shelter checklist, which will help you communicate about your accommodations and medical or other needs you may have once you arrive. You can find open shelters through the American Red Cross.
- Communicating during an Emergency. Emergency situations require quick, clear and accessible communications. One critical part of our emergency communications system is the 911 network. You can call 911 from a home or mobile phone; if you have a hearing impairment, you may use the TTY service. In some areas, you can also send a text message to 911. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has developed a guide about text-to-911 communications from landlines using TTY, as well as mobile phones, and how you can expect that to work. Another form of disaster communications, the Emergency Alert System (EAS), gives national, state and local governments the ability to share emergency information with the public via broadcast, cable and wireless cable systems. All EAS broadcasts and emergency information from broadcast television and radio are required to be accessible by audio and visual means. TheFCC has specific requirements for the accessibility of disaster information and what must be provided to be people with disabilities.
- First Responders. Emergency responders and law enforcement officers must understand the needs of people with disabilities when responding to a disaster. When communicating with someone who is deaf or hard of hearing, when an interpreter is not available, there are other ways tocommunicate effectively. The Autism Society offers tips for communicating with children and adults with Autism or other sensory disabilities. You may also want to check out these tips for first responders that focus on many other types of disabilities. This guide from the Inclusion Research Institutedetails ways that emergency personnel can best serve people with disabilities during a disaster. Watch a clip from a video called “Disability Awareness Training for Law Enforcement“ that can help you communicate with and support people with a range of disabilities. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Behavioral Health Disaster Response Mobile App helps behavioral health responders organize and share disaster preparation, response and recovery resources. It includes a directory of behavioral health service providers in affected areas.
- Current Events. You should have an emergency preparedness kit and emergency plan ready for a wide variety of hazards and emergency situations. Learn about emergency situations affecting the U.S. right now and how you canprepare for and handle them. Hurricane season in the Atlantic lasts through November; in the Pacific, it lasts until December. Keep track of approaching hurricanes with the American Red Cross’ Hurricane app. In addition to your emergency kit,prepare yourself and your home: clean up your yard, store outdoor items that could be blown away by high winds and board your windows. Always evacuate your home if instructed to do so. California in particular has experienced manywildfires this year. Although the area is known for these occurrences, wildfires can happen anywhere at any time anddry conditions increase their likeliness. As with all emergencies, it’s important to be prepared. If you live where wildfires occur, you must be ready to leave at a moment’s notice. Make sure you respond appropriately – have two ways out, a place to stay once you leave and take needed supplies with you. Power outages can happen at any time, too. Turn off or unplug lights that aren’t being used anymore. Limit how many times you open your refrigerator so food stays cool longer. When it’s time to cook, use perishable foods from the fridge and foods from the freezer first – then use your non-perishables. If you want to use a generator, never use it in an enclosed space, like a garage, and follow these safety tips. Learn about what to do during power outrages if you usemedical devices that require electricity.
- Recovering from a Disaster. Disasters can take a toll on your mental and emotional wellbeing; your personal recovery is an important part of the process of overcoming a disaster.Emotional and mental health recovery takes time. A key resource for support is SAMHSA’s Disaster Distress Helpline. Call 1-800-985-5990 (TTY: 1-800-846-8517) or text TalkWithUs to 66746 to speak with a trained crisis counselor. Remember, everyone responds to a disaster differently, so it is important to understand how to cope and help others copeduring difficult times. Parents can read “Helping Children Cope with Disaster” for information about how to help young children who are experiencing emotional issues related to a disaster. Situations such as missing family members, returning home orfinding a place to stay may also contribute to post-disaster stresses. Financial assistance is also available. VisitDisasterAssistance.gov or use FEMA’s Disaster Recovery Center Locator to find help. You can also apply for FEMA disaster assistance online or by calling 1-800-621-3362. The Small Business Administration’s Home and Property Loansare low-interest loans that help homeowners and renters indeclared disaster areas whose home or personal property has been damaged by a disaster. Even if you’re not a small business owner, you can apply for up to $200,000 to replace or repair your primary residence. And remember, your state’s emergency management agency can help you prepare for, and recover from, an emergency or disaster.
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