Helpful Tools & Tips – General Tips

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Planning for an emergency is important. If you know what you need to be safe and independent.

  • Include any specific information that pertains to your disability in your Emergency Readiness Plan. The more information responders and your support network have about you, the easier your recovery will be from the emergency.
  • Think about what should be placed in your Go-Bag. Bulky items may not be able to go with you, if you had to leave home or work. Pack your “must-have” items to meet your daily needs.
  • Make copies of your important documents, papers and/or photos and include this information in the Plan itself. Keep it with you. Some people scan and then copy this kind of information to a flash drive or other electronic device.
  • Write down your contact information and include your street address, state and zip code, along with your home phone number and cell phone number in your plan.
  • Cell phones may work during emergencies, so you can contact your family through text or phone. Text message is sometimes the best way to contact other people after a disaster or emergency.
  • Carry an extra 5-7 day supply of all your medicines/supplies in your Go-Bag and keep it with you at all times.
  • Get copies of your prescriptions and put them with your important documents in all your kits. These prescriptions could be for daily medications or something like eyeglasses or contacts.[i]
  • Make copies of user manuals for all equipment and assistive devices and keep with your Emergency Plan.
  • Add items to your Shelter-at-Home Kit and Go-Bag that can help you feel better during emergencies. For example, a battery-powered music player (mp3 or iPod) with headphones, a favorite picture or any item that will help provide comfort.
  • Store emergency supplies in something easy for you to carry or move. If you use a mobility device such as a walker, wheelchair, or scooter, you might consider using a pack or backpack that would attach to it.
  • Plan for the needs of your pet(s), just as you plan for your needs.
  • Emergencies will bring out a wide variety of emotions that may feel uncomfortable. Decide in advance who you will call to support you while the details of current events unfold.
  • Stock your kit with any vitamins or medications you take to guard against getting sick and to cope with being sick.


Some disasters will affect you and you will need to decide to shelter-in-place or evacuate. Public officials help people make these decisions by providing the public with information on what they should do. People also need to take into account their own circumstances to make a decision.

  • Practice sheltering-in-place or evacuating from places where you spend time (home, job, school, volunteer assignment) until you feel comfortable that you will know what to do during and after an emergency.
  • Determine how you will communicate with emergency personnel. This is especially important if there is no interpreter or if you do not have your communication devices (e.g. augmentative communication device, word board, artificial larynx).[ii]
  • Consider carrying a pre-printed copy of key phrase messages with you, and in your Emergency Readiness Plan, such as:
    • “I speak American Sign Language (ASL) and need an ASL interpreter.”
    • “I do not write or read English.”
    • “If you make announcements, I will need to have them written or signed.”
    • “I communicate with an augmentative communication device. I can point to pictures or words to tell you more about me”.
    • “I may have difficulty understanding what you are telling me. Please speak slowly and use simple words.”[ii]
    • “I forget easily. Please write down information for me.”[ii]
  • Make sure furniture is secured so that it does not block the pathways you usually travel.[iii]
  • Be aware of your surrounding area.[iv]
  • Learn where emergency exits are in the building your are in. Think about how you will leave a building, home, subway, or busy place if there were an emergency and you had to hurry.[iv]
  • Look around you. Be aware of heavy things that could fall or areas where glass could break. Move away from them if you can.[iv]
  • Service animals may become confused, panicked, frightened, or disoriented in a disaster. Keep them confined or securely leashed or harnessed. A leash (or harness) is an important item for managing a nervous or upset animal. Be prepared to use alternative methods to negotiate your environment.[v]
  • If you live in a retirement community, assisted living facility or adult family home, learn about emergency planning and procedures. How will you be kept informed? What will the facility or community expect of you and your fellow residents?[vi]
  • Keep night-lights in hallways at home, in case you had to leave unexpectedly.
  • Know the emergency evacuation routes where you spend most of your time.
  • Make a habit of letting people know where you are and when you are expected to return.
  • Make sure your family knows how to contact you. Give your contact information to friends, neighbors, and employers.


Ask your service provider about alternative power sources that will sustain you for up to seven days in the event of a power outage.


  • For all-day use over several days, a gasoline-powered generator is the preferred alternative power source. Test it periodically and operate it only in an open area to ensure good ventilation. If you store an adequate gasoline supply, make sure you do so safely. Keep a siphon kit on hand in case you need to obtain gasoline directly from your vehicle.[vii]
  • Some generators can be plugged into house wiring systems. Consult your utility company before you do this.7

Test Backups Regularly

  • If your backup power system relies on batteries, be aware that stored batteries require periodic charging, even if they have not been used. A charging routine must be strictly followed.[vii]
  • Test your alternative power equipment regularly to ensure it will function in an emergency.[vii]
  • Know the working duration of any batteries that support your system.[vii]
  • Ask your power company about the type of backup power you plan to use and get their advice.[vii]

Utility Company Registry

  • Never count on your power being quickly restored. Utility personnel may not be able to reach you immediately after a major disaster.[vii]
  • Many utility companies keep a list of names of people dependent on life-support systems and tag their meters. Registering for this service may qualify you for a discount rate; contact the customer service department of your provider for more information.[vii]


  • Different equipment and devices require different batteries. Know what type of batteries you use in your equipment and devices and keep extras available in your home and go-kit. If the battery is too large to pack, think about other power sources.
  • Store extra batteries in a cool, dry place you can get to in an emergency.


  • Plan for a possible 3-14 day disruption in your ability to get prescriptions refilled.[i]
  • Ask your doctors how you can get an emergency supply of medications.[i]
  • Some medication should be kept in your “shelter-in-place” and “go-bag.” Rotate your medications. Take older ones out of your kits and use them before the expiration date. Replace them with a fresh supply.[i]
  • Ask your pharmacist about the best way to store your medications. Some are heat or cold sensitive.[i]
  • If you get medications or treatments (such as dialysis, infusion, chemo, or radiation therapy, methadone, etc.) from a clinic or hospital, ask your health care provider what you should do in case of an emergency.[i]


  • Label equipment and attach instruction cards (laminate them for added durability).
  • Store mobility aids like canes, crutches, walkers, and wheelchairs close to you in a consistent, convenient, and secure location. Keep extra aids in several different locations, if possible.[iii]
  • If you use a motorized wheelchair or scooter, consider having an extra battery available. A car battery can be substituted for a wheelchair battery, but this type of battery will not last as long as a wheelchair’s deep-cycle battery. Check with your vendor to see if you can charge batteries by either connecting jumper cables to a vehicle battery, or by connecting batteries to specific type of converter that plugs into your vehicle’s cigarette lighter in the event of loss of electricity.[iii]
  • If your chair does not have puncture proof tires, keep a batch kit or can of “seal-in” air product to repair flat tires, or keep an extra supply of inner tubes.[iii]
  • Store a lightweight manual wheelchair, if available.[iii]
  • Be sure to have extra batteries for all of your equipment or devices that use them.
  • Keep the product information on all equipment and assistive devices. Keep a copy in your Emergency Readiness Kit. That way, if the equipment or assistive device becomes separated from you or is damaged, replacing it or fixing it is easier.

[i] County of Los Angeles. (2006, July). Emergency Preparedness: Taking Responsibility for Your Safety. Retrieved from

[ii] Ready PA. (n.d.).  Pennsylvania Emergency Preparedness Guide. Retrieved from

[iii] Washington Department of Health. (n.d.). Retrieved from

[iv] Gallaudet University Department of Public Safety. (2014). Retrieved from

[v] Independent Living Resource Center of San Francisco. (2015). Service Animals. Retrieved from

[vi] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration on Aging. (n.d.) Just in Case: Emergency Readiness for Older Adults and Caregivers. Retrieved from

[vii] Independent Resource Living Center San Francisco. (2015). People Who Use Life Support Systems. Retrieved from