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 are important. A sprained ankle, a broken leg, a fractured arm – all of these can severely restrict your ability of evacuate or bug out following a disaster.
Now put yourself in the shoes of an individual with a permanent disability – someone who requires a walker, a wheelchair or a scooter to move around. Clearly, an evacuation will be slow and 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 in advance for survival tactics is important.
Today I am going to share some preparedness tips for people with mobility challenges. 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.
BUT FIRST THINGS FIRST
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 the things you will do because these are the things that all preppers do. And for now, that is all that I will say about that.
PREPAREDNESS TIPS FOR PEOPLE WITH MOBILITY DISABILITIES
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. Keep extra aids in several locations, if possible.
Keep specialized items ready, including extra wheelchair batteries, oxygen, catheters, medication, prescriptions, food for service animals, and any other items you might need.
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.
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 carrying techniques that 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.
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.
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 FINAL WORD
I want to be clear.
This is not an area where I have first hand experience. Sure, I have helped nurse family members following an operation that limited their movement but other than basic care, I never had to deal with mobility challenges in an emergency. On the other hand, while researching this article a realized how many of these strategies could become important when we least expect it.
Fortunately, 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.