Disability Emergency: Disasters, Planning, Climate Change
Synopsis: Information regarding disaster and emergency planning and procedures for seniors and persons with disabilities in emergencies. People with vision, hearing loss, or speech-related disabilities often encounter many more communication barriers, especially when regular communication channels are down or overloaded. People with physical disabilities may have reduced ability to get to accessible exits, as well as reduced access to their personal items and emergency supplies.
Disasters are serious disruptions to the functioning of a community that exceeds its capacity to cope using its resources. Disasters are routinely divided into either "natural disasters" caused by natural hazards or "human-instigated disasters" caused by anthropogenic hazards, as well as various factors that influence the exposure and vulnerability of a community. Natural disasters can be:
- Climatological: relating to the climate (droughts and wildfires).
- Meteorological: relating to weather conditions (cyclones and storms).
- Geophysical: a hazard originating from solid earth (earthquakes, landslides, and volcanic activity).
- Hydrological: caused by the occurrence, movement, and distribution of water on earth (floods and avalanches).
- Biological: caused by exposure to living organisms and their toxic substances or diseases they may carry (disease epidemics and insect/animal plagues).
Man-made and technological hazards are events caused by humans and occur in or close to human settlements. They include complex emergencies, conflicts, industrial accidents, transport accidents, environmental degradation, and pollution.
What is a Disaster Recovery Plan?
A disaster recovery plan (DRP) is a documented process or set of procedures to recover and protect a business IT infrastructure in a disaster. Such a plan, ordinarily documented in written form, specifies procedures an organization is to follow in the event of a disaster. It is "a comprehensive statement of consistent actions to be taken before, during, and after a disaster." The disaster could be natural, environmental, or man-made. Man-made disasters could be intentional (for example, an act of a terrorist) or unintentional (that is, accidental, such as the breakage of a man-made dam).
People need to plan for emergency evacuation in anticipated and unanticipated situations, including chemical, biological, radiological, explosion, transportation accidents, fire, floods, earthquakes, mudslides, hurricanes, tornadoes, snow storms, power outages, etc.
For the millions of people with disabilities worldwide, surviving a disaster can be just the beginning of a greater struggle. For people with disabilities, barrier-free and barrier-ridden environments become much more hostile and difficult to deal with during and after an emergency.
For example, people with physical disabilities may have reduced access to accessible exits and access to their items and emergency supplies.
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People with vision, hearing loss, and speech-related disabilities often encounter many more communication barriers, especially when regular communication channels are down or overloaded. These barriers appear at a time when rapid communication may be crucial to survival and safety.
Emergency, or disaster, planning includes preparing organizations and staff to deal with natural and man-made disasters; supporting people with disabilities in preparing for a disaster; and providing education and information to ensure local and statewide emergency officials are fully prepared to address the needs of people with disabilities in case of an emergency. Typically, the needs of people with disabilities in emergency preparedness are unaddressed, or plans are not well coordinated, leaving individuals with disabilities unnecessarily vulnerable in an emergency.
The critical needs of individuals with disabilities during an emergency include the evacuation of transit systems, getting to safe shelter in a natural disaster situation, and full access to transportation systems when there is a need to evacuate a particular location. If you or someone close to you has a disability or a special need, you may have to take additional steps to protect yourself and your family in an emergency.
Steps for individuals with a disability and special needs in case of an emergency:
- Visually impaired: May be extremely reluctant to leave familiar surroundings when the request for evacuation comes from a stranger. A guide dog could become confused or disoriented in a disaster. People who are blind or partially sighted may have to depend on others to lead them, as well as their dog, to safety during a disaster.
- Hearing impaired: May need to make special arrangements to receive warnings.
- Mobility impaired: May require special assistance to get to a shelter.
- Single working parent: May need help to plan for disasters and emergencies.
- Non-English speaking persons: May need assistance planning for and responding to emergencies. Community and cultural groups may be able to help keep people informed.
- People without vehicles: May need to make transportation arrangements.
- People with special dietary needs: Should take special precautions to have an adequate emergency food supply.
- People with medical conditions: Should know the location and availability of more than one facility if dependent on a dialysis machine or other life-sustaining equipment or treatment.
- People with intellectual disabilities: May need help responding to emergencies and getting to a shelter.
- People with dementia: Should be registered in the Alzheimer's Association Safe Return Program
Preparedness Begins with You
Your family may not be together when a disaster strikes, so it is important to plan:
- How will you get to a safe place?
- How will you contact one another?
- How will you get back together?
- What will you do in different situations?
Preparation, which includes practice, is the key to success in dealing with a disaster. Preparation is an ongoing process. Remember that the usual means of support and assistance may not be available during an evacuation and after the disaster. Prepare a personal disaster plan with the following in mind:
- Create a network of neighbors, relatives, friends, and coworkers to aid you in an emergency. Discuss your needs and ensure everyone knows how to operate the necessary equipment.
- Discuss your needs with your employer.
- If you are mobility impaired and live or work in a high-rise building, have an escape chair.
- If you live in an apartment building, ask the management to mark accessible exits clearly and to make arrangements to help you leave the building.
- Keep specialized items ready, including extra wheelchair batteries, oxygen, catheters, medication, prescriptions, food for service animals, and any other items you might need.
- Be sure to make provisions for medications that require refrigeration.
- Keep a list of the type and model numbers of the medical devices you require.
- Wear medical alert tags or bracelets to identify your disability.
- Know the location and availability of more than one facility if you depend on a dialysis machine or other life-sustaining equipment or treatment.
Disability organizations must join with relief and rescue organizations and the media to educate and inform their constituents of disaster contingency and self-help plans. A universal design approach to meeting the needs of people with disabilities before and after a disaster will benefit many people without disabilities, such as the very young or the aged. A look at existing agreements among relief organizations and local, state, federal, and international governments will offer guidance in developing effective universal design and implementation strategies.
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Disabled World is an independent disability community founded in 2004 to provide disability news and information to people with disabilities, seniors, their family and/or carers. See our homepage for informative reviews, exclusive stories and how-tos. You can connect with us on social media such as X.com and our Facebook page. Disabled World provides general information only. The materials presented are never meant to substitute for qualified professional medical care, nor should they be construed as such. Funding is derived from advertisements or referral programs. Any 3rd party offering or advertising does not constitute an endorsement.
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Cite This Page (APA): Disabled World. (2022, September 17). Disability Emergency: Disasters, Planning, Climate Change. Disabled World. Retrieved September 24, 2023 from www.disabled-world.com/disability/emergency/
Disabled World is an independent disability community founded in 2004 to provide disability news and information to people with disabilities, seniors, their family and/or carers. See our homepage for informative reviews, exclusive stories and how-tos. You can connect with us on social media such as X.com and our Facebook page.
Disabled World provides general information only. The materials presented are never meant to substitute for qualified professional medical care, nor should they be construed as such. Funding is derived from advertisements or referral programs. Any 3rd party offering or advertising does not constitute an endorsement.