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Lesson #5: People With Special Needs

Based on stories/lessons learned from your colleagues and co-workers.

What Happened: The October storm reminded us of how vulnerable ANYbody can be to a disaster. Do you know someone with Special Needs? Perhaps you can share what you've learned with them to help prepare. Since we work and deal with seniors, there is a very simple one-page handout of suggestions that you might wish to share with them -

Lesson Learned:In the context of emergencies and disasters, Special Needs means members of our community with little or no ability to address their own preparedness, response and recovery and people whose life circumstance leave them needing more than what traditional emergency response agencies provide. This includes anything that prevents you or them from following emergency instructions or fully using traditional disaster preparedness and response services

  • physically disabled (ranging from minor disabilities causing restriction of some motions or activities, to totally disabled requiring full-time attendant care for feeding, toileting, and personal care.)
  • mentally disabled (ranging from minor disabilities where independence and ability to function in most circumstances is retained, to no ability to safely survive independently, attend to personal care, etc.)
  • blind, visually impaired, low vision
  • deaf, hearing impaired, hard-of-hearing
  • frail/elderly, seniors
  • children, unattended minors, runaways, latchkey kids
  • geographically isolated - no access to services or information, limited access to escape routes
  • limited or non-English speaking, monolingual
  • undocumented persons, political dissidents, and others who will not avail themselves of government or Red Cross facilities or services due to a variety of reasons
  • ex-convicts, registered offenders and other clients of the criminal justice system
  • culturally isolated - includes people with little or no interaction or involvement outside of immediate community. This is the broad meaning of the words 'culture' and 'community', including religious, ethnic, poverty, sexual orientation, etc.
  • medically dependent - includes those dependent on life sustaining medications such as with HIV/AIDS and diabetes, or are dependent on medications to control conditions and maintain quality of life such as pain medications, allergy medications, seizure control medications etc.
  • medically fragile - such as people with multiple chemical sensitivities, and those who cannot be in, or use public accommodations for a variety of reasons.
  • chemically dependent - includes substance abusers and others who would experience withdrawal or other symptoms due to lack of access, such as methadone users.
  • homeless, shelter dependent - including shelters for abused women and children
  • poor, extremely low income
  • single parents with no support systems
  • owners of pets, companion animals, and livestock - includes those who will make life and death decisions based on their animals, such as refusing to evacuate or go to a shelter if it means separating from an animal.
  • emergent special needs - includes those developing special needs because of the disaster, such as spontaneous anxiety/stress disorders, or recurrence of a dormant health condition, etc.
  • transient special needs - includes people temporarily classified as special needs due to a transient condition, status or illness - includes groups such as tourists who'll need care until they can leave, those who can't see until glasses are replaced, or can't hear until hearing aid is replaced, etc.

Above resource materials from

An Emergency Evacuation Planning Guide for People with Disabilities was developed in response to the emphasis that has been placed on the need to properly address the emergency procedure needs of the disability community. This 60-page Guide addresses the needs, criteria, and minimum information necessary to integrate the proper planning components for the disabled community into a comprehensive evacuation planning strategy. This Guide is available to everyone in a free, downloadable format from the NFPA website, And covers plans for many different needs, as well as including a (4 page) Personal Emergency Evacuation Planning Checklist.

Erie County has developed in 2011 a totally voluntary registry of people who may need special assistance in the event of an emergency - fill out the form online, or download as a pdf.

This message brought to you by the Emergency Planning Committee to help you prepare