Be Storm Ready: Special Needs Emergency Planning

Jun 30, 2015

As Houston area residents know, storms can become life threatening situations in mere moments. That’s why when we have a loved one with special needs, we have to be even more prepared for any emergency situation.

Whether your loved one has mobility, visual, hearing, speech, or cognitive disabilities, you will need to not only plan ahead, but also put that plan in action during a disaster. Here’s how.

Research Before Planning

Knowing what what disasters you and your loved ones are susceptible to is the first step in any planning strategy.

Think about how you would react to the situation if there were no water, air conditioning or heat, electricity or refrigeration. Knowing what kind of dangerous situations you may face will help you adapt your strategy so that your loved ones stay out of harm’s way.

evacuation laneDo some preliminary research and find out if you can register your family with the local fire department so they are aware of any particular needs in an emergency. Look into local shelters and plan several different evacuation routes as well.

If your loved one receives regular treatments at a hospital or medical facility, find out from a medical provider what options are available during disaster situations, and what they recommend for at-home medical equipment that requires electricity to operate.

Create A Plan

Your comprehensive emergency plan should outline how to prepare for any hazard, and act as an instruction manual for outside help that you may recruit. Here’s an outline of some important items to include or consider.

-Recruit Support

For the most part, you will need help in caring for a loved one with special needs during an emergency situation. Part of a complete emergency plan is drafting the help of a willing person or team that can either help administer care or replace you if need be.

Does your support team have the ability to access medications or information about your loved one? Will they be able to properly inform a first responder about your loved one’s needs? This network should have access to medical documents, medications, health information, and they should be an active participant in helping you create an overall plan for emergencies. In addition, you and your support team should also be able to:

  • Administer medication or know how to operate necessary medical equipment
  • Learn how to turn off water, gas, and electricity in an emergency, and be able to use a pre-purchased generator
  • Determine a meeting place in case a loved one becomes separated from your group

Be especially prepared to be able to create a support team on the spot. No matter how much you plan, your chosen network could be unavailable during emergencies.


This may be one of the simplest ways that you can prepare for any disaster or emergency. Have a separate group of people, either out of state or in a different location, be able to regularly check in with you throughout an emergency. This group should also be able communicate with other members of your support team. Make sure everyone has a back-up plan on how to communicate should phone networks become unavailable.

You will also need to have your loved one be able to communicate vital information with emergency personnel in the event that they become separated with your group. Consider a communication board or medical alert tags.

-Build A Kit

In addition to a typical disaster supply list that includes a three day supply of food, water, first aid, and other resources you use on a daily basis, you will need to prepare an extra supply kit that is completely devoted to your loved one’s special needs.

A special needs emergency kit should contain the following items:

  • At least a 2 week supply of essential medications
  • A generator with use instructions
  • Extra medical supplies such as mobility aids (manual wheelchairs or walkers), extra batteries for necessary electronic devices, oxygen or respirators, extra hearing and visual aids, and a record of the serial numbers of any assistive devices your loved one may use
  • Copies of medical history and related documents, list of allergies, and any prescriptions, including the pharmacies where the prescriptions can be filled
  • Emergency contact information that includes 3-5 key contacts
  • Family records (birth certificates, wills, etc.) and insurance information
  • Proper licenses and ample supplies for service animals or pets

Be sure to stock a back-up of all of these supplies at a nearby or familiar location so you will have access to supplies in the event yours become lost, damaged, or depleted. Remember that supplies will be limited at medical facilities, shelters, and stores.

-Safe Evacuation and Escape

Your plan will also need escape routes for every emergency situation, whether that be evacuation roads or fire exits. Map out homes, buildings, and other places where exit strategies need to be planned and reviewed.

You’ll have to consider certain implications of any disability such as blocked ramp access for wheelchairs or how a visually impaired loved one can find escape routes should they become separated from you during a fire.

Carefully monitor news outlets to determine if staying or leaving is the right situation for your loved one during a major storm. If you decide to seek out a shelter, you will need to determine if that shelter can meet your loved one’s needs before an emergency strikes. Have a detailed evacuation plan that you and your support network can reference with different routes and destination options. Have your special needs emergency kit ready to grab and go at all times.


Start Planning Today

Start building your special needs emergency kit today. If you’re discouraged by how detailed your plan will be, start small and build onto it daily until all the necessary pieces are in place. Help keep your family safe with the proper planning.

Everyone at the Law Office of Christina Lesher, P.C. wants your family and loved ones to stay safe and be prepared this hurricane season. Please contact the Law Office of Christina Lesher, P.C. for assistance on putting a plan together for your loved one at (713) 529-5900 or online.

Using a multidisciplinary disciplined team we find the right resources and right path for your loved ones in the areas below