Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Diocesan Preparedness Month: How To Prepare for Special Needs

By definition, crises are events outside of the normal human experience. Interrupting the established routines of our lives, they often remove the systems we typically rely on to get through our day.

For many of us, the loss is inconvenient, but not insurmountable. For persons with special needs, it could prove devastating and even life-threatening.

In the disaster world, a special need is any limitation on a person's ability to effectively handle and survive a crisis situation.

Special needs include, but are not limited to:
  • Physical restrictions.
  • Medical concerns.
  • Communication abilities.
  • Lack of transportation.
  • Limited financial ability to evacuate or prepare for emergencies.
Special needs may be as simple as needing daily medications (which may not be available for refill in an emergency) or as complex as being bound to a wheelchair while living in a top-floor apartment (how will you evacuate in a fire, or if the electricity is out?).

The Emergency Management Ontario and the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario, Canada have developed an excellent resource for persons with special needs to begin planning for and considering their unique situation in emergencies. The guide is available for download in seven (yes, seven!) languages (English, French, Chinese, Italian, Portuguese, Punjabi, and Spanish), and offers excellent tips and instructions for persons with special needs.

Download the guide here:

Additional Note: While full of excellent information, the resources listed in the guide are specific to residents of Ontario. For transportation and other special needs assistance in Texas, dial 2-1-1 from any touch-tone phone. This free phone call can help connect you to local services and organizations. In addition, download information from the Texas Department of Emergency Management at

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