How to Prepare for a Hurricane if You or a Loved One Have Disabilities or Functional Needs

2020 Hurricane season and the map of America
The Early Storm Season in 2020
June 5, 2020
myths about hurricanes
Hurricane Myths and Facts
July 30, 2020

How to Prepare for a Hurricane if You or a Loved One Have Disabilities or Functional Needs

preparing for hurricane with disability

Digital electronic mobile road sign that says Hurricane Season prepare now, on the side of a tree lined neighborhood road

Everyone should approach hurricane preparedness with careful consideration and planning, but things can be especially complicated for people living with disabilities or limited mobility. Individuals and families with these additional concerns should take extra preparatory measures based on their specific needs.

Some hurricane plan modifications may simply be additions to what you pack in your hurricane kit, while others may require additional planning or evacuation resources.

  • Have a support network you can contact for assistance when a hurricane watch begins
  • Keep a contact list of your support network in a water-tight container
  • Make sure the people in your support network know where your hurricane kit and emergency supplies are located
  • Ensure those support people have a key or some means to access your home
  • Know your evacuation options, especially if you will require specialized accessible transportation to evacuate safely
  • Wear any necessary medical alert tags

It should be noted that local Florida paratransit services may be able to help with evacuation or scheduling you for pickup should evacuation be necessarily. For example, Broward County has specific instructions and resources for the homeless, elderly, people with special needs, those with disabilities and other vulnerable populations.

While we’re still in the early stages of Hurricane Season 2020, now is an ideal time to familiarize yourself with these resources. Don’t hesitate to call the Hurricane Information Hotline to learn about your transportation options. Most of these resources should also have hearing-speech impaired/TTY answering services as well.

Plan for Your Medical Needs

  • If you require dialysis you should know exactly where you’ll be evacuating to and reach out to multiple facilities to ensure they can schedule you when necessary
  • Speak with your medical device providers to find out if or how you can use your equipment during a power outage
  • If you have a communications-related disability, be sure to think ahead on how you can quickly and clearly let emergency workers and other relief volunteers know the best way to communicate with you
  • Know how you can evacuate with your assistance devices prior to an evacuation order so you’re prepared, but also have records of model information and know how and where you can get replacements if necessary
  • Make sure to evacuate with your medications and plan accordingly (such as having a cooler and ice) if some of your medications need to be refrigerated – like insulin

Related to the last point – make sure you have information regarding your private insurance, Medicare or Medicaid, as unexpected medical costs, such as equipment replacement costs, could occur along the way.

Service Animals

Many people with disabilities will need to evacuate with their service animals, which means also having the necessary:

  • Food
  • Water
  • Bowls
  • Tags
  • Leashes
  • Records of shots, veterinary information or any other relevant documentation

Although most emergency evacuation shelters do not accept pets, they will likely allow your service animal.

Deaf or Hard of Hearing

People who are deaf or hard of hearing should certainly have a pen and paper in their hurricane kit as they will likely be interacting with individuals who don’t know sign language if they’re evacuating or staying at shelters. Having a weather radio with flashing alerts and a text display, plus extra batteries, and a TTY device will also be useful during evacuation.

Blind or Vision Impaired

Knowing where emergency supplies should be and marking them with braille or large print labels will be helpful. Ideally you should have a braille or deaf-blind communications device in your hurricane kit. Having either a portable flash drive or an easily accessible audio file with your emergency supply list may also come in handy.

Mobility Related Disabilities

  • Have a lightweight, collapsible, manual chair available as a backup to your powered wheelchair – if you use one
  • Make sure your support network is familiar with your wheelchair and its operations
  • If you use a cane or walker, having a backup for evacuation may be helpful
  • Don’t forget any seat cushions if you use them to protect your skin or maintain balance in your wheelchair

Don’t Hesitate to Get Help – and Make Sure to Support Your Friends and Family

People with limited mobility, hearing or vision impairments or other functional difficulties are well served by knowing who they can rely on for assistance should an evacuation order go into effect. Many of these people can get along fine on their own, but what would be an easy journey during normal times can become unexpectedly hazardous or troublesome when wind, rain, flooding, blocked streets and power outages are a factor.

If there’s a person in your life who could use a little extra help or would benefit from having someone they can reach for assistance should the need arise, consider contacting them to become a part of their hurricane support network.