Emergency Preparedness and Your Family
By Carrie Noseworthy, Project Coordinator, Massachusetts Family Voices
When you’re a caregiver for a child with special health care needs, or special needs of any kind, you have a lot on your mind. You are focused on making sure that your child is receiving the care that they need. You may be advocating for their education, advocating for their mental health care needs, addressing medical or behavioral issues or any combination of the above. Sometimes, you may just be trying to make it through the day. Preparing for an emergency of any kind, be it a fire, natural disaster or an active shooter situation may never have entered your mind.
September is National Preparedness Month. Won’t you take a moment to think about your family’s specific needs should an emergency happen? It can be something as basic as practicing a fire drill in your home or apartment. Perhaps you might want to put together a “preparedness kit.” What should be included in your family’s kit? FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) has put together a list that can be found at https://www.ready.gov/kit. Sometimes, it can take the government 3 days to activate emergency help, depending upon the emergency, so they suggest individuals plan accordingly and pack supplies for 3 days.
No one can prepare for every emergency, but creating a plan is a great place to start. Plans can help people to feel prepared and to decrease uncertainty. If your child is on an IEP, you can ask for emergency preparedness to be addressed as a safety goal. If there was an emergency at your child’s school, would you know what the protocol is? It’s a great conversation to have with your Team and to work towards ensuring a plan is put in place. Do you have a child who is over 22? Safety and preparedness are lifelong concerns. You can also bring up safety goals and preparedness at your child’s IEP meeting.
The Red Cross has an online resource entitled, “Preparing for Disaster for People with Special Needs” available at http://www.redcross.org/prepare/location/home-family/disabilities. It’s a great resource to share with providers and people involved in your child’s care. Another thing that you can do is to bring a current picture of your child each year to your police/fire station. You can have a conversation with them about your child’s specific needs in case of an emergency. Some stations have forms you can fill out with information specific to that child. They can type it in directly into their computer so that if they are dispatched to your residence, they will be better prepared to meet your loved one’s needs.
There are also apps for cell phones where you can list the same information. One free app is called ICE (In Case of Emergency) where you can enter information in case of an emergency. The goal is to increase the safety of your loved one during an emergency by including their medical background and needs. If you’ve read this article all of the way through, I hope you will have been motivated to take steps to make your family more safe and to better prepared in case of an emergency!