We can’t always predict what it will look like, but we can know this: disasters will happen. Whether it’s a storm, flooding, wildfires, earthquake, microburst or even a train crashing onto a freeway, the Northwest is not immune to natural and man made emergencies.
Each event presents a challenge that affects everyone, but none more so than people with disabilities who face additional barriers, such as:
- how or where to evacuate (or get home) if power shuts down elevators or roads are blocked
- where to get power for mobility or medical needs
- how to keep medicines cool
- who to contact if family or care providers can’t travel due to road conditions or illness
These are not the kind of problems that can be solved by a last minute rush to the store for food and batteries, but by having conversations and planning with the people in our lives. Whether it’s at home or the workplace, connecting with those around us is key to any effective emergency planning. Often, the number one resource in an emergency is right next door.
Know Your Neighbors
Programs like Map Your Neighborhood guide neighbors through simple steps to help enhance preparedness for an emergency at the neighborhood level (15-20 homes or a defined area that you can canvas in 1 hour). It teaches neighbors to rely on each other during the hours or days before fire, medical, police or utility responders arrive.
Make People Part of Your Plan
In creating your own emergency or disaster preparedness plan, identify neighbors who have special skills or assets you might need, such as a generator for charging medical equipment, or a neighbor with a medical background. One family we featured in a video last year used a Star Form to identify people and resources to plan for emergencies. Part of the plan included talking to a neighbor with a generator about storing insulin in their refrigerator if needed.
In another story we published, The Emily Project, Emily Rogers shared how her neighbors came together after an ice storm left them without power for her and her husband’s wheelchair.
Engage Public Places in Planning For Everyone
A Disaster Waiting to Happen, a new video written and directed by Rooted in Rights Storyteller, Paul Tshuma, looks into the measures taken to evacuate individuals with disabilities in case there is a fire in a building.
Start the Conversation
Disasters are dominating today’s news. Use current stories to start a conversation with family, neighbors and employers about ways to communicate, evacuate, shelter in place, and prepare for emergencies when they happen.
Here are some resources to help you get started:
Emergency Planning for People with Disabilities in Washington State
Washington State Independent Living Council