For the last installment of Emergency Preparedness Week, here are a few more tips to help in preparation for emergencies:
Assisting Individuals with visible disabilities
Emergency preparedness is a shared responsibility. While disasters and emergencies affect everyone, their impact on people with disabilities/special needs is often complexed by factors such as reliance on electrical power, elevators, accessible transportation and accessible communication— all of which can be compromised in emergency situations.
If you have a hearing disability, it is important to ensure that those around you are informed. Use gestures such as moving your lips without making a sound, or pointing to your ear and hearing aid. Always keep a pen and paper handy for written communication. If possible, have a page that is connected to an emergency paging system at your residence. Install a smoke detection system that includes flashing strobe lights or vibrators to get your attention if the alarms sound. Test smoke alarms monthly by pushing the test button. Ensure batteries are replaced everything six months or whenever there is a low battery signal.
Your checklist can include:
- Writing pads/ pencils for communication
- Flashlight, whistle or personal alarm
- Pre-printed phrases to be used during an emergency
- Assistive equipment according to your needs
- Portable visual notification devices to know if someone is knocking on the door, ringing the doorbell, or calling on the telephone
- Extra batteries for assistive devices
Assisting a person with a hearing impairment:
- Get the person’s attention via a visual cue or a gentle touch on their arm. Do not approach the person from behind
- Face the person, make eye contact when speaking to them as they may rely on lip reading and communicate in close proximity
- Speak clearly and naturally. Do not shout or speak unnaturally slowly
- Try to rephrase, rather than repeating yourself
- Use gestures to help illustrate your meaning
A person who is blind or has reduced vision may have difficulty reading signs or moving through unfamiliar environment during an emergency. They may feel lost and/or dependent on others for guidance. It is recommended to have a longer white cane available to readily maneuver around obstacles. Identify all emergency supplies in advance with fluorescent tape, large print or Braille text and familiarize yourself in advance with all escape routes and locations or emergency doors/exits on each floor of any building where you work, live and visit.
Your checklist should include:
- Extra white cane, longer in length
- Talking or Braille clock
- Large print timepiece with extra batteries
- Extra vision aids
- Extra pair of prescription glasses (if applicable)
When assisting a person with a vision disability:
- For people who are deaf-blind, drawn an X on their back with your finger to let them know you can help them
- To communicate with someone who is deaf-blind, trace letters in their hand with your finger
- To guide a person, keep half a step ahead, offer them your arm and walk at their pace
- Do not shout at a person who is blind or has reduced vision, just speak clearly and provide specific directions
- Provide advance warning of upcoming stairs, major obstacles or changes in direction
- Watch for obstacles that the person could walk into
Seniors with disability/Special needs
Seniors, especially those with special needs, should be informed of what to do in an emergency. If you have a family member who might need special assistance during an emergency ensure that they create an emergency contact list identifying their personal support network, including physicians, case worker, a contact from a seniors group, neighbours and the building superintendent. It is best to be familiar with all escape routes, emergency equipment and the location of emergency doors / exits in their home ahead of time. It may also be practical to request a panic push-button to be installed in their work and/or living area so that in the event of an emergency they can notify others of their location.
Recommended additional items checklist:
- Non-perishable food appropriate to your dietary restrictions
- Assistive devices needed such as canes, walkers, lightweight manual wheelchair, hearing aids, breathing apparatus, blood glucose monitoring device
- Extra prescription eyewear and footwear (if required)
- Extra supply of medications and vitamin supplements
- A list of all your needed medical supplies and special equipment
- Copies of all medication prescriptions
Assisting a senior with a disability / special needs – what to do
- Check on neighbours to find out if there are seniors who would need your help during an emergency.
- Always speak calmly and provide assurance that you are there to help. Avoid shouting or speaking unnaturally slowly.
- Let the person tell you how you can help.
- Know the location of emergency buttons (many seniors' buildings have emergency buttons located in bedrooms and washrooms).
Service Animal Emergency Kit Checklist:
Here is a checklist that identifies some of the basic items you should prepare to keep your service animal comfortable during an emergency.
- Minimum 72-hour supply of bottled water and pet food
- Portable water and food bowls
- Medications with a list identifying medical condition, dosage, frequency and contact information of prescribing veterinarian
- Leach and collar
- Up-to-date ID tag with your phone number and the name/phone number
For more tips on how to get prepared, visit https://www.getprepared.gc.ca/