If you have ever had an injury that limited your mobility, you will understand why knowing how to deal with mobility challenges following a disaster is important. A sprained ankle, a broken leg, a fractured arm; all of these can severely restrict your ability to dig your way out of or evacuate in the aftermath of a disaster.
These temporary disabilities are annoying and inconvenient at best. Now put yourself in the shoes of an individual with a permanent disability; someone who requires a walker, a wheelchair, crutches, or a scooter to move around.
Clearly, getting out of harms way will be slow as ordinary objects such as furniture, stairs, curbs, and doorways become obstacles or even barriers to escape. Add to this the challenge of moving about during chaos and panic and you can understand why planning advanced survival tactics is important.
Today I share six preparedness tips for the mobility challenged. But please take note. These tips are for everyone because when and if the time comes, it may be you with the challenge and not your neighbor, your spouse or your friend.
Having an awareness of the obstacles that a person with mobility issues faces will make you a better prepper.
The Basics of Prepping Apply to the Mobility Challenged
Regardless of any physical challenges, the basics of prepping still apply. Accumulate food, water, first aid, self defense and the other items to get by under dire conditions. Have the gear you will need to stay warm and the means to cook your food when the grid is down. Practice your homesteading skills and develop a community of like minded people to watch your back as you will watch theirs.
These are basic tenets of preparedness and things you will do because these are the things that all preppers do.
Six Preparedness Tips for the Mobility Challenged
1. Store Your Stuff
Store emergency supplies in a pack or backpack that can be attached to crutches, a walker, a wheelchair, or a scooter.
Store the needed mobility aids (canes, crutches, walkers, wheelchairs) close by in a consistent, convenient and secured location. If possible, keep extra aids in several locations.
Keep specialized items ready, including extra wheelchair batteries, oxygen, catheters, medication, prescriptions, food for service animals, and any other items you might need.
2. Put Together a Specialized Emergency Supply Kit
Keep a pair of heavy gloves in your supply kit to use while wheeling or making way over glass or debris.
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 wheelchair or scooter vendor to see if you will be able to charge batteries by either connecting jumper cables to a vehicle battery or by connecting batteries to a specific type of converter that plugs into your vehicle’s cigarette lighter in the event of loss of electricity. And if so, get some of these cables to keep in your emergency pack.
If your chair does not have puncture-proof tires, keep a patch kit or can of “seal-in-air product” to repair flat tires, or keep an extra supply of inner tubes.
If possible, store a lightweight manual wheelchair.
3. Know your surroundings
Arrange and secure furniture and other items in a manner that will provide a clear path of travel and barrier free passages.
If you spend time above the first floor of a building with an elevator, plan and practice using alternative methods of evacuation.
If you cannot use stairs, determine in advance which physical carrying techniques will work for you. Understand that there will be instances where wheelchair users will have to leave their chairs behind in order to safely evacuate a structure.
Sometimes transporting someone down stairs is not a practical solution unless there are at least two or more strong people to control the chair. Therefore, it is very important to articulate the safest mode of transport if you will need to be carried. As an example, for some, the traditional “fire fighter’s carry” may be hazardous due to respiratory weakness.
Plan at least two evacuation routes; you never know when your primary means to exit will be blocked or inaccessible.
4. Communication Skills are Important
Practice giving clear, concise instructions regarding how to move you. Take charge and quickly explain to people how best to assist you. Determine in advance how much detail will be needed and drill your “speech” with a trusted friend that will give you some feedback.
You know your abilities and limitations and the best way that someone can assist you or ways in which you can assist them. Again, practice giving these instructions clearly and quickly, not in four paragraphs but a few quick phrases, using the least amount of words possible.
Create a network of neighbors, relatives, friends, and coworkers to aid you in an emergency. Discuss your needs and make sure everyone knows how to operate your equipment.
Discuss your needs with your employer.
If you live in an apartment building, ask the management to mark accessible exits clearly and to make arrangements to help you leave the building during a disaster. The more people who know where you are and the need for assistance the better.
6. Other Important Items
Be sure to make provisions for medications that require refrigeration.
Keep a list of the type and model numbers of the medical devices you require.
Wear medical alert tags or bracelets to identify any disabilities that may not be visually obvious to a stranger.
Just like any other survival skill, it is important to practice your emergency plan through regular drills. Imagine the worst and practice for that.
The Mobility Challenged are Not Helpless
Let me be clear on one very important point.
While mobility challenges are real, the mobility challenged are not helpless. If they are preppers, they garden, tend farm animals, preserve food, practice self-defense, teach, sew, entertain, and embrace self-sufficiency with gusto.
Whereas in an emergency, the mobility challenged may need some extra assistance, at the end of the day it is the grey matter between their ears that counts. The ability to think, reason, and take appropriate action is a key component to being a prepper. Do not lose sight of that when working with your mobility challenged neighbor and comrade as you pursue your preparedness journey.
The Final Word
Mobility challenges is not an area where I have first-hand experience. Sure, I nursed family members who had temporary mobility challenges following an operation but I never had to deal with mobility challenges during an emergency. That said, as part of my interaction with Backdoor Survival readers and during my own research, I have come to realize that certain, mobility-related strategies could become important when we least expect it.
Fortunately, also while researching this article, I found that there are some really good resources available from government agencies, senior centers and just plain folks that are willing to help formulate preparedness strategies for people with mobility challenges.
One of the better resources I found was the free booklet Emergency Evacuation Preparedness by the Center for Disability Issues and the Health Professions. You can download a copy by clicking on the link and I encourage you to do so.
The life that gets saved just might be your own.
Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!
Gaye Levy, also known as the Survival Woman, grew up and attended school in the Greater Seattle area. After spending many years as an executive in the software industry, she started a specialized accounting practice offering contract CFO work to emerging high tech and service industries. She has now abandoned city life and has moved to a serenely beautiful rural area on an island in NW Washington State. She lives and teaches the principles of a sustainable and self-reliant lifestyle through her website at BackdoorSurvival.com. At Backdoor Survival, Gaye speaks her mind and delivers her message of prepping with optimism and grace, regardless of the uncertain times and mayhem swirling around us.