Hurricanes, tornadoes, floods. wildfires, earthquakes, blizzards, and more. Natural disasters are reminders of the need for an emergency plan for all families and caregivers, and especially those caring for individuals with special needs.
A parent of one of my music therapy friends, a preteen diagnosed with autism, commented, “It would be nice to have a check list of supplies I should keep on hand.” This parent hit the nail on the head. Most of us who care for a person with special needs find it challenging enough just to take care of regular days, so we rarely take time to plan ahead for a disaster. Even if you live in an area not typically affected by natural disasters, it is still a good idea to have an emergency plan in place and supplies stocked in the event of an extended power outage or other unexpected event requiring you to stay in place for several days or longer. Take a look at the list below, then adapt it and add to it for your particular situation.
ESSENTIAL EMERGENCY SUPPLIES
(1) Keep a one-week supply of water on hand – that is one gallon per day per person.
(2) A week’s supply of prescription medications.
(3) Portable camping toilet(s), toilet paper, and hand sanitizer.
(4) Several flashlights, camping lanterns, battery operated cell phone chargers, portable radio, and iPod with favorite music – all with fresh batteries.
(5) In the midst of the disaster and possible extended recovery time, remember to keep cell phones powered up as much as possible by calling one central contact person to notify other family and friends, and by keeping all but one phone turned off except for emergencies. Keep contact numbers close at hand.
(6) Adequate clothing, bedding, toiletries, first aid kit, and other essentials. Don’t forget the favorite pillow, blanket, and sleep aids of your friend with special needs.
(7) A week’s supply of non-perishable food – consider the special dietary needs and food preferences of individuals with special needs. Although you can get propane stoves and other non-electric cooking devices, it is probably best to keep a food supply that doesn’t require heating or refrigeration. Some ideas: dried fruits, dried veggie chips, canned fruits and veggies, olives, pickles, dried meats, canned shredded chicken or canned tuna, bread, mustard, crackers, pretzels, cereal bars, snack mix, peanut butter and jelly, nutrition bars, and fresh fruits & veggies not requiring refrigeration, e.g., carrot sticks, apples, pears, etc. Remember to specifically plan foods appropriate for anyone on a special diet.
(8) Books, board games, stuffed animals, paper and craft supplies, and other supplies to help your friends with special needs and others stay calm in the face of this disaster, and to help make the unfamiliar event and long wait less boring and more fruitful.
(9) Food and water for household pets.
Keep in mind the “essentials list” above is just for a disaster event keeping you in your home. The list would be very different if you had a knock on the door from emergency personnel telling you of the critical 10-minute deadline for suddenly evacuating your home. A number of folks faced that very 5-to-10 minute evacuation order during Hurricane Harvey this weekend, so you might want to take time to assemble an emergency evacuation kit as well as the “stuck at home” kit above. We will post some ideas for the evacuation kit in a later post. We hope you and your family member with special needs never face an extended disaster situation, but, just in case, the motto here is to “Be Prepared.”