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It’s Hurricane Season: How to Plan for an Emergency When You Have a Disability

2011 brought devasting floods to inland New Jersey with Hurricane Irene, only to be followed by
Superstorm Sandy, the next year, the fourth-worst storm in U. S. history. Though downgraded to
a tropical storm when it made landfall, Sandy was more than 1000 miles wide, three times the
size of a typical hurricane. Its destructive winds leveled many communities along the coastline as
it hit during high tide and merged with high- and low-pressure systems both north and south of
New Jersey, earning it the title of a “superstorm.”


The severity and frequency of storms like Sandy and Irene will continue to increase as the
Earth’s temperatures escalate, icebergs melt, and sea levels rise. New Jersey is especially
vulnerable due to its low-lying coastline along the Atlantic Ocean. According to the American
Meteorological Society, climate change will contribute to more hurricanes in general over the
next 15 years, predicting 32 super-extreme storms with winds exceeding 190 miles per hour. As
a result, residents of New Jersey, particularly the most vulnerable population, such as people
with disabilities, need to be ready for what comes.

What makes a hurricane dangerous?

A hurricane is a storm with violent wind that forms in the tropical waters and can cause
significant damage from heavy rains, violent wind, or life-threatening storm surge. Due to the
lethal nature of the storm, individuals may need to evacuate from their home. Long-standing
power outages following a hurricane may also require evacuation, as was prevalent following
Superstorm Sandy. Individuals with disabilities, especially those with mobility limitations and
those reliant on machines to power life-saving devices may have a more difficult time during
evacuation, as seen in the recent Hurricane Uri that devastated Texas and left the disability
community without aid.


Hurricane season is now upon us, having begun June 1, 2021. Because individuals with
disabilities are especially vulnerable, and the impact of a hurricane can affect all areas of the
state, it is especially important to make a plan for such an emergency and prepare an Emergency
Kit in the event you must evacuate.

How to make an Emergency Plan

  • Sign up for emergency alerts on your phone.
  • Create a support network of friends, family and neighbors that can help you in the event of an emergency. Include your health providers, medical equipment and assistive technology providers in your plan. Let them know how you will need them. Keep your contact list in a watertight container in your emergency kit. Learn more at www.ready.gov/kit.
  • Inform your support network where your emergency supplies are kept. You may want to give someone in your support network a key to your house or apartment.
  • Contact your health provider to know the process for getting an extended supply or replacement supply of medication should you need it.
  • Contact your local emergency management department and plan ahead for your individual needs. Learn about places to go in the event of evacuation and facilities with supplies you may need. Work with service providers of public transportation or paratransit to identify local or private accessible transportation options. Know the location of shelters that allow service animals if that applies to you.
  • Know the location and availability of more than one facility for dialysis. If dialysis is part of a health maintenance plan or other life-sustaining treatment, know where multiple facilities are located.
  • Know how to use medical equipment if a power outage occurs.
  • Wear medical alert tags or bracelets.
  • Make note of the best way to communicate with you in an emergency. If you have a communication disability, determine the best way others can communicate with you and let them know.
  • Plan how to evacuate with assistive devices or how to replace equipment if it gets lost or destroyed. Keep model information secure and note who provided it such as Medicaid, Medicare or private insurance. Also note the vendor or dealer.

https://www.fema.gov/press-release/20210318/hurricane-preparedness-persons-disabilities-and-access-and-functional-needs

How to Build an Emergency Kit

An Emergency Kit is a bag of essential supplies that you might need in an emergency, whether
you must evacuate or if you decide to shelter-in place. Below is a list of various types of to-go
bags that an individual might have ready depending on your circumstance.

Carry-on-you Kit

  • The carry-on-you kit is for the essential items you need to keep with you at all times. This might include cell phone and charger, flashlight and batteries, current prescription medication, emergency contact and health information.

Grab-and-go Kit

  • The grab-and-go kit is a bag, such as a small duffle that you can grab if you have to leave home in a hurry. It has the things you cannot do without and that you can carry and use without help from someone else. This should include any medication you take, your emergency contact list, health provider information, straws, mobility device chargers, a change of clothes, non-perishable meal bars, pet food for service animals, credit card, and cash.

Home Kit

  • The home kit includes water, food, straws, first aid supplies, clothing and bedding, tools, emergency supplies, flashlight and batteries, and disability-specific items. It includes all the things you would most likely need if you had to be on your own for days either at home or in an evacuation shelter.

Bedside Kit

  • The bedside kit includes items you may need if you are trapped in or near your bed and unable to get to other parts of your home. Some items would be important papers, cell phone, medication, bottled water, straws, flashlight and batteries.

Car Kit

  • The car kit includes items you will need if you have to evacuate the area and/or are in or near your vehicle during an emergency. This could include food, water, blankets, cell phone and charger, mobility device chargers, first aid kit, jumper cables and a toolbox.
    https://adata.org/factsheet/emergency-supply

Additional Resources for Planning

There are additional resources and actions you can take to be prepared for a hurricane or
emergency:

Follow state and local Office of Emergency Management (OEM) social media platforms.
If your power goes out, but your cell phone is still working, you’ll be able to check online
for notifications about the pending emergency.

Sign up for Register Ready, New Jersey’s special needs registry for disasters, which
informs emergency management of people with disabilities who will need assistance
during an emergency. Sign up for alerts on your phone through NJ OEM.

Volunteer for core advisory groups in your county or online groups for your area to assist
in planning for emergencies and ensure the voices of people with disabilities are included
in emergency planning.

https://www13.state.nj.us/SpecialNeeds/Signin?ReturnUrl=%2fSpecialNeeds%2f
https://www.facebook.com/READYNEWJERSEY
https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/disabilityandhealth/infographic-disability-impacts-all.html
https://www.fema.gov/assistance/individual/brochure

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