When is the right time to prepare for an emergency?

The best answer is to be ready before the emergency takes place.

This summer’s wildfires reminded us how important it is to be ready for an emergency. Living under smokey skies and watching the news was scary and stressful, even for those far from the actual fires. Emergencies are part of life, whether they come from winter storm power outages or summer wildfires.

Now is the perfect time to prepare for an emergency, and transition students can play an important part in making sure their family is ready. Helping create an emergency plan has double benefits for transition students: first, it’s a valuable skill for independent living. Second, having a plan in place can lower anxiety and stress about what might happen in an emergency.

According to the Red Cross, preparing for emergencies is easy as 1-2-3! Just follow the three steps outlined below. People with disabilities and their families can adapt those three steps to meet all their individual needs. Some people need to think about medications or adaptive devices. Other people need to plan ways to communicate in a rescue situation, or to adapt to a change in routine or a loud environment.

Ready to get started? Follow these suggestions from the Red Cross and Ready.gov to adapt your emergency plan, to be sure your family is ready.


Step 1: Make an Emergency Kit

  • First, gather basic supplies for three days. Include canned food and jugs of water, medications, first aid supplies, flashlights and batteries, a change of clothing, and simple tools. Find a full list of supplies at Ready.gov
  • Add extra batteries or chargers for adaptive communication devices, and extra hearing aids, glasses, canes and other assistive equipment.
  • People with sensory sensitivity may need to plan ways to reduce noise and activity in busy places, in case of evacuation. Pack extra headphones, handheld games or movies, and even a small tent to create privacy.
  • Add a folder of essential information, including medical prescriptions, copies of ID cards, insurance and Medicare cards, and a list of contact information for your support network. Add information on assistive technology that may need replacing, including model numbers and where to purchase it.


Step 2: Plan the details

  • Every family should discuss where to go and where to meet, for different types of emergencies. Where is the safest place in your house for sheltering from a storm? Where will you meet outside your home, in case of a fire? What route will you take to leave town, if your neighborhood is evacuated? Share your plan with personal care attendants, and your support network.
  • Double check the safety equipment in your home. Know where the fire extinguishers are kept and test the batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
  • The Red Cross suggests practicing emergency evacuations twice a year. This is especially important for people who use wheelchairs or other assistive equipment, or for people who have moved to a new location.
  • Some emergencies make it difficult to get mail delivered. People who depend on receiving federal benefits or wages in the mail should consider direct deposit to their bank accounts. Learn more about how to sign up for electronic deposit here.


Step 3: Stay Informed and stay in touch

  • How will you learn about emergencies? Some people keep a battery operated or hand-cranked weather radio that works during power outages; other people depend on smartphones with apps like FEMA Alertor a weather alert system.
  • Create an emergency contact card for each person in your family (the Red Cross offers a free template to download here.) Fold the completed card to fit into a wallet.
  • Add an emergency contact to your phone under the name “ICE” or “In Case of Emergency.” First responders will look for this name if they need to make a call for you.
  • Don’t forget to check in with friends about their emergency plans! Share what you’ve done, and make sure that your friends are ready too.


Photo by Matt Howard on Unsplash