Scared Prepared

MHAF Resources: Disability Connection’s “10 Things You Need to Know about Emergency Preparedness”


1. September is Emergency Preparedness Month.

Disasters can strike quickly and without warning making every second count during an emergency. Since 2004, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has sponsored National Preparedness Month, which encourages Americans to take simple steps to prepare for emergencies in their homes, businesses, schools and communities. The site’s toolkit includes helpful information, such as how to build an emergency supply kit, making a family game plan, staying informed before, during and after an emergency, and other preparedness resources and tips. Be ready and be safe! Find preparedness events in your community.


2. Tornadoes

During a tornado, finding shelter quickly is paramount to staying safe. An underground area, such as a basement or storm cellar, provides the best protection from a tornado. Staying in your trailer or mobile home, even if it is tied down, is not safe. If an underground shelter is unavailable, the following tips should be considered:

  • Seek a small interior room or hallway on the lowest floor possible;
  • Stay away from doors, windows and outside walls;
  • Stay in the center of the room, and avoid corners which attract debris; and
  • Avoid auditoriums, cafeterias, gymnasiums or other buildings with flat, wide-span roofs.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s webpage, Tornadoes: Being Prepared, covers important actions to take when a tornado hits, additional measures that people with special needs should consider and how to practice an emergency plan. also offers Tornado Safety Tips, such as how to build a safe room.


3. Hurricane and Floods often go hand-in-hand.

So, it is important to be prepared for both when a storm strikes. he National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recommends that you first assess safety risks, such as your home’s vulnerability to storm surge, flooding and wind. They also suggest understanding the difference between a National Weather Service watch and warning and staying informed about the severity of the storm. Make sure you have a battery powered radio available in case the electricity goes out. Plan an evacuation route and be prepared to leave your home immediately if ordered by local officials. Read FEMA’s Evacuation Guidelines for more information.


4. Earthquakes

Every year, millions of people across the world participate in Great ShakeOut earthquake drills to improve preparedness and practice earthquake safety. The next ShakeOut is scheduled for October 17th at 10:17 a.m. Wherever you are – at home, school, work, etc. – you should Drop, Cover and Hold On as if a major earthquake is occurring at that very moment. Stay in this position for at least 60 seconds.


According to emergency officials and first responders, when an earthquake hits, you should:

  • Drop to the ground;
  • Take Cover under a sturdy table or desk if possible, protecting your head and neck; and
  • Hold On until the shaking stops.

Great ShakeOut earthquake drills began in California in 2008 and have expanded each year since then. The drill is free and open to the public, as well as schools, businesses, state and local government agencies and other groups. To participate in this year’s ShakeOut, register at


5. Fires

Each year, approximately 3,400 Americans die and 17,500 are injured in fires – but this risk is even greater for people with physical, mental or sensory disabilities. The U.S. Fire Administration encourages people with disabilities and their caregivers to use its fire safety tips and fire safety checklist to help protect themselves and their homes. You should also review the National Fire Protection Association’s fact sheets on Home Safety for People with Disabilities; Safety in the Workplace; and Safety in High-Rise Buildings.


6. Feeling Safe, Being Safe

This captioned 10-minute YouTube video explains how to use the Think, Plan and Do approach to make a personalized emergency preparedness plan, create a home emergency kit and connect with your community members. Developed by the California Department of Developmental Services’ Consumer Advisory Committee and The Board Resource Center, other Feeling Safe, Being Safe materials include a worksheet and magnet (in both English and Spanish), a booklet on the initiative and a presentation that can be used by community leaders to promote personal preparedness planning.


7. Talking to Kids about Disasters

Parents and teachers should visit for information on helping kids (from birth to 11+ years old) cope after an emergency situation. Another helpful resource is a 16-page Ready Kids Activity Book, which teaches children about emergency preparedness through cartoon strips, crossword puzzles and coloring pages. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s publication, Tips for Talking to Children after a Disaster: A Guide for Parents and Teachers, provides an overview of how different age groups may react to natural disasters or other traumatic events. The guide also gives pointers on how to talk to kids about a disaster, as well as other ways parents and teachers can support them.


8. First Responders

…provide essential services when a disaster impacts a community, including preventing further damage and ensuring steady recovery operations. The Department of Health and Human Services’ webpage, Dealing with Disabilities: Tips for First Responders, contains important information on assisting people with disabilities during an emergency or disaster. Tips are customized for specific populations, including seniors; people with service animals; people with mobility, vision and hearing impairments; people who have a mental illness; and those with cognitive disabilities.


The Ready® Responder toolkit from FEMA provides emergency response agencies with a series of flexible and customizable planning tools to help prepare their staff and families for emergencies. These include how to develop an organizational preparedness plan; tips on how to engage other agencies and departments in these efforts; and other resources crucial to providing immediate support during an emergency.


9. Taking Shelter

Since disasters often happen without warning, taking appropriate shelter during an emergency is critical for the safety of you and your loved ones. This may mean finding a designated shelter in your area or sheltering-in-place for a few hours and waiting for emergency personnel to arrive. An American Red Cross fact sheet offers practical tips to help you and your family shelter-in-place at home, work, school or in your vehicle. No matter where you are, it is important to listen to your TV or radio to know whether you should remain indoors or evacuate. has additional information on seeking shelter, including staying at mass shelters and managing food and water supplies. To search for open shelters, text SHELTER and your zip code to 43362 (4FEMA).



…offers many resources, including those listed in this newsletter, for individuals with disabilities, their families, emergency service providers and others. The site’sEmergency Preparedness section features information on emergency readiness for people with disabilities, older adults and caregivers, as well as resources on how to make emergency shelters and facilities accessible, where to get help after a disaster and more. Stay connected to through Facebook, Twitter and Disability.Blog.




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