Tornados and Hurricanes and Flooding! OH MY!

May 26, 2011 Kyron No Comments

You can’t miss it if you turn on the TV. It seems natural disasters are everywhere these days. From Earthquakes to epic flooding to tornados to hurricanes, there are only a few disasters that actually give you time to plan. If the catastrophic disasters of Tuscaloosa, Alabama or Joplin, Missouri have any redemptive value it is in the hope people heed the warning and plan for these natural disasters.

Most of the time they happen with little or no warning. As chaotic as that can get for any family, for one with a family member who has special needs it can make the chaos ten times worse. Frequently we’re so caught up in the commotion of the day to day we aren’t thinking about whether we’re adequately prepared if something should happen that changed where we needed to live, or conversely, made it impossible to leave home, potentially for days at a time. Every single family should have emergency plans, not every one needs to have one quite as acutely as a family that includes a person with a disability.

  • Evacuation – whether it’s the available routes out of your home and neighborhood or the hurricane evacuation route you need to take for yourevacroute Tornados and Hurricanes and Flooding! OH MY! location, all of this should be planned well in advance and reviewed with all family members.
  1. If you have a member who is physically disabled, who will be in charge of making sure they get out in case of fire, tornado or flood? Who is in charge of the person with autism or an intellectual disability who may become paralyzed with fear and unable to follow the rules that have been carefully rehearsed in advance?
  2. If you get separated where is a safe place to meet? Sounds simple to assume now, nothing is simple when your house has been destroyed or the smell of smoke is choking you and the lack of visibility is disorienting you. The more it’s planned out and practiced, the better off you will be.
  3. If you need to get out of the neighborhood and trees are blocking your way, what are your alternatives if you need that vehicle to transport your family member. Figure out as many possibilities as you can. When I tell you that one of ours is to drive up a curb and through a park attached to our neighborhood, I’m not kidding. Not sure I’d think of that in a panic, but when I preplanned I realized our neighborhood only has one in and out and they are at the same location.
  • Equipment –  the emergency may make it that you can stay put in your home but you won’t have access to anything outside of your home – blizzards, ice storms and hurricanes all come to mind.
  1. Do you have a generator/should you consider a generator? Your house may be intact but services to your home may have been disrupted, frequently it will take days to return. It can make a great deal of sense to have a small generator (which should not be run inside the living area of your home) if you live in an area prone to electrical outages, but it could be critical if you need electricity for powering medical equipment or other equipment needed for your special needs family member. Whether it’s oxygen, IV pumps, Nebulizers, feeding pumps, or a small refrigerator for medications like insulin that require cool temperatures, you might not need one that powers the whole home but rather just a few critical devices.
  2. If you do have to leave, do you have backups for any of this equipment elsewhere if you can’t get it out of your home? Is there a place you can access or have duplicate equipment stored? A family member, neighbor, workplace or school might be a good place to keep a duplicate where and when possible.
  3. Have you contacted your electric company and told them you have a person who is medically dependent on electricity living in your household so that they can prioritize you in an emergency outage? Call them TODAY and find out what can be done to ensure they know you have a critical need for the electricity.
  • Medical Plans – medical for our family members doesn’t just mean making sure you have a supply of prescription medications that are goingmedicals 300x282 Tornados and Hurricanes and Flooding! OH MY! to last you at least a few days although that is of course a critical component. I know it’s hard between finances and insurance companies but always do your best to not be running on empty when it comes to medication. In a major disaster it may be difficult to access a pharmacy for refills. But it’s not just prescriptions that have to be considered medical for some of our kids…
  1. Do you have the right food? Specialized diets (low fat, low salt, GFCF, enteral formularies, ketogenic) may be more difficult to access so make sure you have a few days of food on hand. Whether you can’t access it because the stores aren’t opening,  you just can’t get out to get to the stores or you’ve had to evacuate to a shelter, making sure you can maintain a specialized diet is really important. Keep a plastic sealable container with supplies available with your disaster kit at all times and make sure nothing has expired, checking at least a couple of times a year.
  2. Disposables. You know, the stuff you probably have run out of once or twice with only a muttered curse and a quick trip to the CVS or call to the medical supply place. Ostomy bags, Diapers (especially for those who need specialized sizes), gloves, feeding bags, gauze pads, tape, needles, testing strips, chucks, instant icepacks (the ones in your freezer that no longer has electricity are now lukewarm at best) Make sure you have enough to get you through a few days.
  3. Sensory. Emergencies upset the apple cart in about a gazillion ways you can’t plan for. Plan for what you can. If you have a kid who has sensory issues whether mild or severe, minimize what is going to be an already upsetting experience by making sure you have things that are familiar to them. Everything from utensils to clothing can become problematic if you’ve left home on a moment’s notice. Button shirts borrowed from the cousin is a guarantee of a naked kid running around in our home because we DO NOT do buttons on the shirt. We have a few days worth of clothing he can manage to wear available. Pants as well as shorts. long sleeve and short. and a sweatshirt with a hood. (don’t ask, I don’t get it either) You don’t know what conditions will call for.  A familiar blanket is always good to have. Anything sensory that are triggers for your child and can be preplanned for are going to be critical as they may very well be in sensory overload. In an already foreign environment familiar food can be the one great comfort. Make sure you plan to have something they will eat. Cheerios for several meals straight may be less than desirable, but it’s not nearly as bad as a starving, miserable, sensory overloaded child.
  • Where to turn for help - preplan this as well. Yes, you should have a neighbor or family member you can turn to but even more so, help emergency responders help you. Many communities have registries set up so that the police, fire, and EMS personel know when you have someone who may need specific assistance in the case of a disaster or other emergency. Others have shelters specifically for special needs but you need to pre-register. Call them today and find out what is available. Most emergency services have a non-emergency phone number. If you’re unsure of it call your local municipal building or city hall to find out what it is. Where can you go with a service animal or pets? Your city personnel should know that as well and can help you get that information ahead of when you need it.
  • Records – make sure if there are vital medical records you would need to have access to you’ve planned for that. Whether its remote storage in a scenario like Medefile, a thumb drive with digital copies stored on it or paper copies stored in watertight bags in your Disaster Supply Kit, make sure they are updated regularly and that you don’t have to run around like crazy to gather them – you may not be able to.
  • Disaster Supply Kit – everyone (especially those of us living in disaster prone areas) should have one of these ready to go. Ours just gets more extensive than the average, needing to cover all of the above as well as the basics below. While the below is not an all-inclusive list, make sure you check out one of the emergency preparedness plans by FEMA and the Red Cross below which are far more extensive:

redcross 300x199 Tornados and Hurricanes and Flooding! OH MY! 1. Three-day supply of nonperishable food and manual can opener.

2. Three-day supply of water (usually considered 1 gallon of water per person/per day)

3. Battery powered radio, flashlight and extra batteries

4. First Aid Kit

5. Sanitation/Hygiene items: hand sanitizer, toilet paper

6. Matches in a waterproof container

7. Clothing and blankets

8. photocopies of identification for each family member and copies of credit cards

9. cash AND coins

10. kitchen accessories and cooking utensils.

11. infant needs, such as formula, diapers, bottles, and pacifiers.

This list isn’t inclusive. I hope it DOES  make you stop and think about what you and your family would need if disaster struck. FEMA put out a detailed outline of things to think of in planning for an emergency which you can access here. I also got one today in honor of Florida Hurricane Preparedness Week you can access here put out in conjunction with the Red Cross. If you have ideas or things you have implemented for your family don’t hesitate to add in the comment section below. Get to planning. There’s no time to waste!


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