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Entries in Preparedness (18)


Disaster Tip of the Week: Preparedness Considerations for People with Disabilities and Special Needs

Photo by: exfordy 

Like everyone else, people with disabilities and special needs need to prepare for disasters and the unexpected at home and in the work place. While the basic needs are the same as most individuals there will be some obvious differences depending on the needs of that specific person. 

In the corporate world as I have worked as a consultant and spoken to others on this issue the preparedness level runs across an entire spectrum from the excellent, where people volunteer to help those with special needs to help them evacuate, to the legally questionable, "those people are on their own" attitude.

While I will not be addressing any of the workplace issues here, it is important to know that people with special needs, should be incorporated into your disaster planning. What I will be doing here is providing some basic advice for those with disabilities and special needs and for their family members who may also have concerns about preparedness issues.

First since everyone can start with the same basic preparedness needs here is an excellent checklist you can use for your emergency preparedness kit from It is in PDF format so it is easy for you to download and print out.

Next, start with the individual needs of the person, do they require more water? Odds are, they will for hygiene and sanitary purposes. Do they have special dietary needs, feeding tubes? These will require you to stock some extra items for these people in case of an emergency. People who take insulin which requires refrigeration also have concerns about power. These are just some small examples to get you thinking about deferent needs.

Here is a list from which is quite useful to help you get started in planning for persons with disabilities:

  • Create a support network to help in an emergency.
  • Tell these people where you keep your emergency supplies.
  • Give one member of your support network a key to your house or apartment.
  • Contact your city or county government's emergency information management office. Many local offices keep lists of people with disabilities so they can be located quickly in a sudden emergency.
  • Wear medical alert tags or bracelets to help identify your disability.
  • If you are dependent on dialysis or other life sustaining treatment, know the location and availability of more than one facility.
  • Show others how to operate your wheelchair.
  • Know the size and weight of your wheelchair, in addition to whether or not it is collapsible, in case it has to be transported.
  • Encourage electronic payments for federal benefit recipients. Keep in mind a disaster can disrupt mail service for days or even weeks. For those who depend on the mail for their Social Security benefits, a difficult situation can become worse if they are evacuated or lose their mail service – as 85,000 check recipients learned after Hurricane Katrina. Switching to electronic payments is one simple, significant way people can protect themselves financially before disaster strikes. It also eliminates the risk of stolen checks.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury recommends two safer ways to get federal benefits:
    • Direct deposit to a checking or savings account is the best option for people with bank accounts. Federal benefit recipients can sign up by calling (800) 333-1795 or at
    • The Direct Express® prepaid debit card is designed as a safe and easy alternative to paper checks for people who don’t have a bank account. Sign up is easy – call toll-free at (877) 212-9991 or sign up online at

    Signing up for direct deposit or the Direct Express card is a simple but important step that can help protect your family’s access to funds in case the unthinkable were to happen. If you or those close to you are still receiving Social Security or other federal benefits by check, please consider switching to one of these safer, easier options today.

  • Additional Supplies for People with Disabilities:
    • Prescription medicines, list of medications including dosage, list of any allergies.
    • Extra eyeglasses and hearing-aid batteries.
    • Extra wheelchair batteries, oxygen.
    • Keep a list of the style and serial number of medical devices.
    • Medical insurance and Medicare cards.
    • List of doctors, relatives or friends who should be notified if you are hurt.

Be sure to visit the website Disability Preparedness from DHS for more information and resources.

One last note if you have family at home on an important life sustaining device that requires power at all times make sure you communicate that with your local power provider. Once they know that you have someone in your home that is a high priority and that you need power returned ASAP when it is out they will work with you to restore your power quickly. They will try when possible to keep power running to your home in many cases when servicing the area, and may even provide additional assistance in some cases by providing a generator (though not all may do so). You also can often get a direct number to someone in the office as an emergency contact as well. If this is a real concern for you I also would recommend having your own generator ready to go at all times. 



Earthquake Safety -- What to do Before, During and After an Earthquake

I'm frequently asked what you should do during an earthquake, and after the yesterdays (April 4, 2010) 7.2 Earthquake in Baja California, Mexico my in box gets flooded with requests on what is best and requests for posts on earthquake safety goes up.

Though I have posted Earthquake Tips before it is buried in a hard to find place, so to please my readers and those concerned here are some recent and up to date Earthquake Tips.

Here are some USGS Earthquake Preparedness FAQ's

NOTE: These tips are directly from FEMA

What to Do Before an Earthquake

Earthquakes strike suddenly, violently and without warning. Identifying potential hazards ahead of time and advance planning can reduce the dangers of serious injury or loss of life from an earthquake. Repairing deep plaster cracks in ceilings and foundations, anchoring overhead lighting fixtures to the ceiling, and following local seismic building standards, will help reduce the impact of earthquakes.

Six Ways to Plan Ahead

  1. Check for Hazards in the Home
    • Fasten shelves securely to walls.
    • Place large or heavy objects on lower shelves.
    • Store breakable items such as bottled foods, glass, and china in low, closed cabinets with latches.
    • Hang heavy items such as pictures and mirrors away from beds, couches, and anywhere people sit.
    • Brace overhead light fixtures.
    • Repair defective electrical wiring and leaky gas connections. These are potential fire risks.
    • Secure a water heater by strapping it to the wall studs and bolting it to the floor.
    • Repair any deep cracks in ceilings or foundations. Get expert advice if there are signs of structural defects.
    • Store weed killers, pesticides, and flammable products securely in closed cabinets with latches and on bottom shelves.

  2. Identify Safe Places Indoors and Outdoors
    • Under sturdy furniture such as a heavy desk or table.
    • Against an inside wall.
    • Away from where glass could shatter around windows, mirrors, pictures, or where heavy bookcases or other heavy furniture could fall over.
    • In the open, away from buildings, trees, telephone and electrical lines, overpasses, or elevated expressways.

  3. Educate Yourself and Family Members
    • Contact your local emergency management office or American Red Cross chapter for more information on earthquakes. Also read the "How-To Series" for information on how to protect your property from earthquakes.
    • Teach children how and when to call 9-1-1, police, or fire department and which radio station to tune to for emergency information.
    • Teach all family members how and when to turn off gas, electricity, and water.

  4. Have Disaster Supplies on Hand
    • Flashlight and extra batteries.
    • Portable battery-operated radio and extra batteries.
    • First aid kit and manual.
    • Emergency food and water.
    • Nonelectric can opener.
    • Essential medicines.
    • Cash and credit cards.
    • Sturdy shoes.

  5. Develop an Emergency Communication Plan
    • In case family members are separated from one another during an earthquake (a real possibility during the day when adults are at work and children are at school), develop a plan for reuniting after the disaster.
    • Ask an out-of-state relative or friend to serve as the "family contact." After a disaster, it's often easier to call long distance. Make sure everyone in the family knows the name, address, and phone number of the contact person.

  6. Help Your Community Get Ready
    • Publish a special section in your local newspaper with emergency information on earthquakes. Localize the information by printing the phone numbers of local emergency services offices, the American Red Cross, and hospitals.
    • Conduct a week-long series on locating hazards in the home.
    • Work with local emergency services and American Red Cross officials to prepare special reports for people with mobility impairments on what to do during an earthquake.
    • Provide tips on conducting earthquake drills in the home.
    • Interview representatives of the gas, electric, and water companies about shutting off utilities.
    • Work together in your community to apply your knowledge to building codes, retrofitting programs, hazard hunts, and neighborhood and family emergency plans.


What to Do During an Earthquake

Stay as safe as possible during an earthquake. Be aware that some earthquakes are actually foreshocks and a larger earthquake might occur. Minimize your movements to a few steps to a nearby safe place and if you are indoors, stay there until the shaking has stopped and you are sure exiting is safe.

If indoors

  • DROP to the ground; take COVER by getting under a sturdy table or other piece of furniture; and HOLD ON until the shaking stops. If there isn’t a table or desk near you, cover your face and head with your arms and crouch in an inside corner of the building.
  • Stay away from glass, windows, outside doors and walls, and anything that could fall, such as lighting fixtures or furniture.
  • Stay in bed if you are there when the earthquake strikes. Hold on and protect your head with a pillow, unless you are under a heavy light fixture that could fall. In that case, move to the nearest safe place.
  • Use a doorway for shelter only if it is in close proximity to you and if you know it is a strongly supported, loadbearing doorway.
  • Stay inside until the shaking stops and it is safe to go outside. Research has shown that most injuries occur when people inside buildings attempt to move to a different location inside the building or try to leave.
  • Be aware that the electricity may go out or the sprinkler systems or fire alarms may turn on.
  • DO NOT use the elevators.

If outdoors

  • Stay there.
  • Move away from buildings, streetlights, and utility wires.
  • Once in the open, stay there until the shaking stops. The greatest danger exists directly outside buildings, at exits and alongside exterior walls. Many of the 120 fatalities from the 1933 Long Beach earthquake occurred when people ran outside of buildings only to be killed by falling debris from collapsing walls. Ground movement during an earthquake is seldom the direct cause of death or injury. Most earthquake-related casualties result from collapsing walls, flying glass, and falling objects.

If in a moving vehicle

  • Stop as quickly as safety permits and stay in the vehicle. Avoid stopping near or under buildings, trees, overpasses, and utility wires.
  • Proceed cautiously once the earthquake has stopped. Avoid roads, bridges, or ramps that might have been damaged by the earthquake.

If trapped under debris

  • Do not light a match.
  • Do not move about or kick up dust.
  • Cover your mouth with a handkerchief or clothing.
  • Tap on a pipe or wall so rescuers can locate you. Use a whistle if one is available. Shout only as a last resort. Shouting can cause you to inhale dangerous amounts of dust.


What to Do After an Earthquake

  • Expect aftershocks. These secondary shockwaves are usually less violent than the main quake but can be strong enough to do additional damage to weakened structures and can occur in the first hours, days, weeks, or even months after the quake.

  • Listen to a battery-operated radio or television. Listen for the latest emergency information.

  • Use the telephone only for emergency calls.

  • Open cabinets cautiously. Beware of objects that can fall off shelves.

  • Stay away from damaged areas. Stay away unless your assistance has been specifically requested by police, fire, or relief organizations. Return home only when authorities say it is safe.

  • Be aware of possible tsunamis if you live in coastal areas. These are also known as seismic sea waves (mistakenly called "tidal waves"). When local authorities issue a tsunami warning, assume that a series of dangerous waves is on the way. Stay away from the beach.

  • Help injured or trapped persons. Remember to help your neighbors who may require special assistance such as infants, the elderly, and people with disabilities. Give first aid where appropriate. Do not move seriously injured persons unless they are in immediate danger of further injury. Call for help.

  • Clean up spilled medicines, bleaches, gasoline or other flammable liquids immediately. Leave the area if you smell gas or fumes from other chemicals.

  • Inspect the entire length of chimneys for damage. Unnoticed damage could lead to a fire.

  • Inspect utilities.
    • Check for gas leaks. If you smell gas or hear blowing or hissing noise, open a window and quickly leave the building. Turn off the gas at the outside main valve if you can and call the gas company from a neighbor's home. If you turn off the gas for any reason, it must be turned back on by a professional.

    • Look for electrical system damage. If you see sparks or broken or frayed wires, or if you smell hot insulation, turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker. If you have to step in water to get to the fuse box or circuit breaker, call an electrician first for advice.

    • Check for sewage and water lines damage. If you suspect sewage lines are damaged, avoid using the toilets and call a plumber. If water pipes are damaged, contact the water company and avoid using water from the tap. You can obtain safe water by melting ice cubes.

More information for further reading:

Southern California

Putting Down Roots in Earthquake Country (read online)

Putting Down Roots in Earthquake Country (PDF Download)

Request Free Copies of Handbook

Enchando Raíces en Tierra de Terremotos (Leer en español)

Echando Raíces en Tierra de Terremotos (PDF)

Solicite una copia impresa en español


San Francisco Bay Area Region

Putting Down Roots in EarthQuake Country Bay Area Version

Protecting Your Family From Earthquakes - Spanish and English Version

Protecting Your Family From Earthquakes - English, Chineese, Vietnamese, and Korean Version

Living on Shaky Ground: How to Survive Earthquakes and Tsunamis in Northern California



7 Steps to an Earthquake Resilient Business


Now you can listen to our Podcast on Earthquake Safety


Disaster Tip of the Week: Still Not Sure on How To Prepare? Learn the Basics

When it comes to preparing for a disaster many people are not sure where to begin. In fact I often hear from many people that they are overwhelmed so they just don't do it.

Well it doesn't have to be so complex and you can get started with just the basics. Just watch this 3 minute video from the campaign and you will quickly learn the basics you need to prepare.



Disaster Tip of the Week: Don’t Forget to Incorporate Sanitation into Your Disaster Preparation

Let's face it, sanitation is one of those subjects we are never likely to discuss during our daily conversations. It is also something we take for granted, since we typically never have to worry about it. Even when it does become an issue, we just pick up the phone and call out friendly local plumber.

Yet during a disaster it is something that becomes very important. Where are you going to go? Is water available to flush? Will you be taking precious potable water for your sanitation purposes? Can you keep it away from your food supplies? What about the smell?

Again, not the most pleasant subject matter, but extremely important since this is something if not done properly can quickly spread disease compounding an already difficult situation.

Another important factor to consider is how many people you have, especially if you are in the workplace or anywhere you have a large number of people. For instance a good rule of thumb is one portable toilet for every seventy-five occupants.

If you are in a location such as your home, or small office and you do not have enough water to both sustain your daily water intake needs and your sanitation needs consider setting up the following type system.

Convert a 5 gallon bucket fitted with toilet lid. Use heavy duty garbage bags and double bag for each use. After using, if available add a chemical agent to both reduce smells and aid in braking down the waste to the bag, and close the bags to avoid spillage. Remove tha bags and place them into either a metal (preferred) garbage can with tight fitting lid or a heavy duty plastic barrel with a tight fitting lid. This will keep the smell levels low, and reduce insect and rodent issues.

Clearly mark the garbage cans human waste so that anyone tasked with removal can readily identify them without having to open the containers.

If you are in a workplace environment, or apartment complex they should as part of their contingency planning have a vendor lined up to bring portable sanitation in, and provide for its removal. This should be done ahead of time so that it makes for fast and easy response from the vendor.

One last thing. Make sure you get all these supplies and vendors lined up ahead of time, otherwise it will be too late if you need them and don't have them if a disaster strikes.


Disaster Tip of the Week: Keep Important Documents In Ziplock Bags

Most of us have many important documents such as insurance papers, wills, licenses, deeds, mortgage, automobile titles, birth certificates, passports, marriage/divorce papers, citizenship papers, contracts, etc. but if your like most people you keep these items in a draw or even in multiple places without much other protection.

Granted a number of people will keep them in a fire safe box, but most people don't. Also, many fire safe boxes and safes are not waterproof.

I personally put all my important documents both personal and business related into ziplock bags, and for documents that are hard to replace I double bag them and place the closures at opposite ends. Some might say this is a bit overkill, but if you have ever seen some of the things I have it is not without good reason.

Placing them into the ziplock bags will keep them from being damaged by water and other debris, during a disaster. Also, water damage is more likely than a fire. This is good for other items that may be valuable.

I would highly recommend if you are placing copies of your documents into safe deposit boxes to place them into ziplock bags as well, which brings me to a story.

I had a friend who placed some very valuable paper items into a safe deposit box that were destroyed when someone broke into the bank and used a water pick to open the safe deposit boxes. All of his stuff as well as other peoples papers were destroyed.

One more important thing to note is that I place the bagged documents into a fire safe box and then have it in a location ready to grab if I have to leave during a fire.

Of course you can purchase specially designed acid free document holders which is the best option, but the plastic bags are a good alternative for protecting them short term, and they are cheap.

One thing you don't want to do however is to laminate your important legal documents. Yes, you can keep them from being damaged from spills and debris, but the lamination process itself causes damage and speeds up the process of the document breaking down.