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Brian Luke Community Blogger, WGRZ-TV

Monday, November 8, 2010

Special Needs Require Special Preparation FEMA

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Do you or a family member have a disability? Are you responsible for the care of a senior citizen? Do you have small children who require special attention and supplies? If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” then you should consider now what extra steps are needed in your family’s disaster plan.

“As we recover from the spring floods in Tennessee, we’re also working to become more prepared for the next disaster,” said James Bassham, director of the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency. “September is National Preparedness Month, and we’d like to remind people that it’s important to be ready for a disaster or emergency, especially for those with special needs.”

Everyone, including people with disabilities, should take time before a disaster to plan for survival at home, in a shelter, or elsewhere in the event of an actual emergency.

“Disaster preparedness is not a ‘one size fits all’ concept,” said Federal Coordinating Officer Gracia Szczech. “People with special needs may require special attention and preparation. Everyone needs to get a kit, make a plan and be informed.”

Considerations for people responsible for disabled individuals:

•For those on respirators or other electric-powered medical equipment, make prior arrangements with your physician or check with your oxygen supplier about emergency plans, and be sure to have electrical back-up for any medical equipment.

•Maintain a two-week supply of items such as dressings, nasal cannulas and suction catheters.

•Maintain a two-week supply of both prescription and non-prescription medications.

•Keep copies of your medical records.

•Keep copies of prescriptions for medical equipment, supplies and medications.

•Keep extra contact lenses and supplies, extra eyeglasses and extra batteries for hearing aids.

•Make plans now to have accessible transportation in case of evacuation.

•Shelters may be limited in accommodations to meet some of the needs of those with disabilities. Prepare ahead of time to ensure you will have what you need.

Considerations for those with small children:

•Assemble extra items in your disaster supply kit such as diapers, baby formula, medications, favorite books, crayons and paper, puzzles, favorite toys, a favorite blanket or pillow, pictures of family and pets, and any other items that might comfort your children.

•Remember that children’s fears often stem from their imagination – fears they may be separated from family, someone will be injured or killed, or that they will be left alone. Communication is important in helping maintain your children’s mental well-being in times of crisis.

•Also, keep a copy of your children’s immunization records, including the date of their last tetanus-diphtheria shot.

Considerations for those responsible for the care of senior citizens:

•Remember to help seniors who live alone. They may need help evacuating from their home, preparing for a storm and dealing with the aftermath of a disaster.

•If someone you are responsible for lives in an assisted living facility or nursing home, you should contact the administrator to learn about the disaster plan for that facility.

Other considerations:

•Hearing impaired – make special arrangements to receive warnings.

•Mobility impaired – plan for assistance getting to a shelter.

•Single working parents – may need help planning for a disaster or emergency.

•Non-English speaking – may need assistance planning for and responding to emergencies.

•People without vehicles – make arrangements for accessible transportation.

•Special dietary needs – take steps to ensure you maintain an adequate emergency food supply.

Additionally, people with special needs should create a network of neighbors, relatives, friends and co-workers to aid them in an emergency. Discuss needs and make sure everyone knows how to operate necessary equipment.

For more information regarding special needs and other aspects of preparedness, visit

Follow the recovery in Tennessee online at,,, and

The social media links provided are for reference only. FEMA and TEMA do not endorse any non-government websites, companies or applications.

FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.

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