It Won't Happen To Me

Photo: American Red Cross Guide - Preparing for Disaster for People with Disabilities and Other Special Needs

Photo: American Red Cross Guide - Preparing for Disaster for People with Disabilities and Other Special Needs

Everyone is attracted to tips and strategies promising greater organization, time management, and stress relief, but how often do we become enticed by the idea of emergency planning?  For many of us the answer is probably rarely or never.  A fire resulting in the complete loss of a home, severe weather ending in a state of emergency, or the threat of terrorism is something that happens to other people, simply stories we see on the nightly news. 

In reality, devastation from fire, straight winds, and blizzards are more common in west Michigan than we typically admit; and unfortunately over the last few years, Americans have learned that we are all at risk for acts of terrorism.  For many individuals with disabilities, whether physical, mental, sensory, or health-related, planning for a potential crisis should be a priority.   Many consequences can be avoided or at least diminished by thinking proactively. 

To create broad awareness, FEMA and the American Red Cross have compiled a guide to assist individuals with disabilities and the elderly to develop a plan specific to their personal needs.  The packet entitled, “Preparing for Disaster for People with Disabilities and other Special Needs” can be found on-line at  

It outlines four critical steps:

      • Acquire information    • Collect supplies
      • Establish a strategy    • Regularly review and practice your plan

When gathering information, individuals should:

·     Identify friends, family, and others who are able to assist them

·     Evaluate which tasks they can perform on their own

·     Educate themselves on local resources available to offer support in the event of an emergency

Developing an action plan includes:

·     Open discussions with those that currently provide support such as personal care assistant’s

·     Recording names, addresses, and phone numbers of your support system

·     Mapping “escape routes”

·     Arranging for someone to care for your pets if you are forced to go to a shelter

The booklet also includes a helpful checklist of supplies to have on-hand in your home and automobile, and a list of actions to conduct regularly to ensure your strategy and supplies are up to date and ready when needed.


American Red Cross. (2004, August n.d.). People with Disabilities. Retrieved from American Red Cross: