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Emergency Planning for People with Disabilities

If your household includes someone with a disability, you should take additional steps to ensure that your specific needs are addressed in emergency situations.

A Personal Support Network

A support network may include family, friends, personal attendants, neighbors, or co-workers. It’s best to have more than one person in your support network at every location where you spend significant amounts of time, such as your home and your place of employment.

Make sure everyone in your support network knows your emergency plans. This includes methods of contact, evacuation routes and location of emergency supplies. If you use medical equipment, show support network members how to operate it. includes comprehensive suggestions for emergency planning.

Interacting with First Responders

It's a good idea to make advance preparations to aid the work of first responders.

Deaf or Hearing Loss

  • Have a flashlight in each room of the house. This will help facilitate lip-reading or signing in the dark.
  • Keep a pen and paper handy in case you need to communicate with someone who does not understand American Sign Language.
  • It may help to write an explanation of your needs in advance. If you need certain equipment or an interpreter, write this down. For example: “I use American Sign Language, I have a hearing loss and I need an interpreter, I need my (name of device).”

Blind or Vision Loss

  • If you use a mobility cane, keep an extra in any location where you regularly spend time.
  • If you have a service animal, include your animal in any evacuation plans. Let first responders know there is a service animal in the home.

Speech Disability

If you have a speech disability, consider carrying a laminated personal communication board. This could be one or several small cards containing written messages.

Mobility Disability

  • If you use a motorized wheelchair, consider keeping a lightweight, manual chair available as backup.
  • If you use a mobility cane or walker, keep an extra in any location where you regularly spend time.
  • Let first responders know the range of your mobility so they know how to help you.

Medications and Supplies

Keep medical alert tags or bracelets and written descriptions of your disability and support needs, in case you are unable to describe the situation in an emergency.

To prepare for a fire emergency, view the U.S. Fire Administration's general guide for people with disabilities.

Emergency Supply Kit

In the event of a large-scale emergency, you should be prepared to spend an extended length of time on your own. If you take medicine or use a medical treatment on a daily basis, be sure you have what you need on hand to make it on your own for at least a week. If it is not possible to have a week-long supply of medicines and treatment supplies, keep as much as possible on hand and talk to your pharmacist or doctor about what else you should do to prepare.

You should keep a copy of important documents in your emergency kit, including a list of prescriptions, medical history, essential phone numbers, and any information related to operating equipment or life-saving devices that you rely on.

A full list of emergency kit supplies can be found on the FEMA website (PDF). Here are the most important items to keep stocked:

  • Water: At least one gallon per person per day, for drinking and sanitation
  • Non-perishable food: At least a three-day supply
  • Battery-powered or crank radio
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Extra batteries for any assistance devices: motorized wheelchair, hearing aids, personal listening device, etc.
  • Keep cell phone and other electronic devices charged.
Revised November 13, 2017         


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