Physically Disabled People Must Have a Hurricane Plan

In Here's the Spin, News by Nathasha Alvarez

audacity magazine satellite photo of a hurricane

As hurricane season approaches, it’s important for everyone, especially physically disabled individuals, to be prepared for potential storms. While being disabled can present unique challenges, there are steps that can be taken to ensure safety and peace of mind during hurricane season. I was in my early 20s when Hurricane Andrew rocked my world. Now when I hear there’s a hurricane warning, I take action. Here are some tips on how physically disabled people can prepare for hurricane season:

Before Hurricane Season:

Have a Plan: Make a plan with family, friends, or caretakers on what to do in the event of a hurricane. This should include what to do if evacuation is necessary and where to go. Keep important phone numbers and contact information in an easily accessible location. Be sure to find out the nearest accessible shelter if your home isn’t safe enough to withstand a hurricane. There’s no shame in that. Don’t let pride put you at risk.

Please get your vehicle checked ahead of time. For example, I take my car to the mechanic at the end of May to make sure my car is ready to go in case I have to evacuate. If you use Paratransit, ask them when they will be transporting passengers to their shelters.

Build a Hurricane Kit: Create a hurricane kit that includes all necessary supplies such as food, water, medication, and extra medical supplies such as catheters or oxygen. Don’t forget to include necessary documents such as identification, medical records, and insurance information.

For example, when I hear there’s a hurricane warning for my city, I call my doctor for a prescription on any medicine that I need filled even if I have enough because you never know. I prepare as if I am going to stay in my home, but I prepare if I’m going to evacuate too.

Know Your Surroundings: If you live in a flood-prone area or near the coast, know the evacuation routes and shelters in your area. It’s also important to know if your residence is in a low-lying or flood-prone area. This is crucial. If you think your area can have water damage, please find another place to stay. It might feel like an inconvenience, but you will be safer.

Stay Informed: Keep up-to-date with local weather forecasts and news. Sign up for alerts and notifications from local emergency management agencies. If you live in Florida, follow Bryan Norcross. This is his Facebook page, but if he leaves that page, find him! Or a reliable news source. Don’t listen to scary people. Listen for facts. I listened to him for Hurricane Andrew and I’m grateful.

Before a Hurricane Warning:

Ensure Your Safety Equipment is Functional: If you use assistive devices such as wheelchairs, scooters, or other mobility aids, ensure they are in good working condition. If you require a generator for medical equipment, make sure it’s working and fueled up. I have invested in portable generators. They’ve come to my rescue during nasty weather in Miami. Sounds silly but it might be a great time to ask for hurricane presents! That’s my new hurricane party technique.

Stock up on Essentials: If a hurricane warning has been issued, stock up on essentials such as food, water, and medication. It’s also important to have extra batteries or a portable charger for medical equipment. Let’s talk about water. Liquid! You need liquid! If people take up all the water, calm down. Fill your bathtub with water that you will use for the toilet and for washing up. Grab jugs or containers to fill up with water to drink and place it in your fridge. You don’t have to buy water. Get food that doesn’t require cooking. Peanut butter, almond butter, bread. Grab chips! Anything until you can cook meals again.

Secure Your Residence: Take steps to secure your home such as boarding up windows, securing doors, and moving outdoor furniture or other items inside. It’s also a good idea to have a backup plan for power outages. You’ve heard this before right? Please say you have. Now for a few extra tips. As disabled people, this can be the most challenging part.

But if you have your support people ahead of time, then you can breathe at ease. I have family and friends who will bring everything inside even if it feels premature because it’s better to be safe than sorry. They will be busy with their own homes. I told my relatives that if we get a hurricane three warning, I will be driving out of Florida. I don’t want to be in Miami, in this home. It doesn’t feel safe. You have to decide what’s best for you. Think about your needs. Your level of tolerance to discomfort. I can’t live without air conditioning. Therefore, I’m out of here if the hurricane warning is a 3 or higher.

During a Hurricane:

Stay Indoors: If possible, stay inside during a hurricane. If evacuation is necessary, ensure that all necessary supplies and equipment are packed and ready to go. If this happens, I want to tell you to be calm. But there’s another part of me that wants to yell, I TOLD YOU TO PREPARE. Realistically, it’s difficult for most of us to evacuate during a hurricane. If you’re with friends and family, they will stay with you because they don’t want to leave you alone. Now you have placed everyone at risk because you didn’t leave when you should have left. Then again, you might be told it will be a hurricane level one or two when all of the sudden it turns to a level three. That’s why it’s important to be prepared before the hurricane arrives.

Charge Your Devices: Ensure all necessary devices such as cell phones and medical equipment are fully charged before the storm hits. If power goes out, use a portable charger or battery-powered devices. This isn’t the time to check your social media. You might want to ask one person to check every hour for updates. Or every half hour if the storm is extremely bad. You will want your phone available after the storm.

Stay Safe: During a hurricane, it’s important to stay safe and avoid unnecessary risks. If flooding occurs, avoid walking or driving through it. If you require assistance, contact local emergency management agencies. I’m not going to lie. This is my biggest fear. I take a photo of my important documents way in advance and email them to myself. I heard that the best place to put documents is in the dishwasher. Have you done this? If so, let me know if it works. While I know I can swim, I’m afraid of leaving my wheelchair behind so flooding is my biggest concern. That’s why I know that if I’m in a flood zone, I’m leaving in my car way ahead of time.

Stay Calm: Hurricanes can be a stressful and scary experience, but it’s important to stay calm and focused. Practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or meditation to help manage anxiety. Great advice right? Let tell me you, for my first hurricane, I had a radio with extra batteries. I listened to music the entire time. It helped me. You have to do what is best for you. I read books. This is when physical books are way better than ebooks. It helped me because even though my shelter was fine, my conveniences were not working. No electricity is a big deal to me.

There’s no right way or wrong way to deal with the emotional part of hurricane preparation. But if you are prepared, you will be calmer than if you leave everything up to chance.

As physically disabled people, we need to be strong enough to speak up when others are making decisions about our safety. Sometimes people have great intentions, but horrible planning. They might offer to carry you up the stairs to their house. Not a good idea. If you have to evacuate during the storm, it’s not safe to have people carry you down the stairs.

We are creative people. We are resourceful. Every storm has taught me a better way to prepare each time. For example, in my home, we have our laundry done because if we have to leave, we are ready to grab anything without worrying if it’s clean or not. We don’t open the freezer or fridge when the power is out unless all of us are ready to quickly grab something out of it. We calculate our moves because reality is that hurricanes are expensive. Don’t eat the nonperishable goods if the storm passes over you without having to use the items. You might need them for the next time.

I shop at the end of May for hurricane nonperishable items that aren’t touched unless we need them or hurricane season is over. This decreases my level of worry because I know I don’t have to go out there to fight over supplies. Preparing is everything.

In conclusion, hurricane season can be a daunting time for anyone, especially for us. However, by taking the necessary steps to prepare, we can ensure their safety and peace of mind during hurricane season. Remember to have a plan, build a hurricane kit, stay informed, and stay calm. By doing so, you can be better equipped to handle whatever the hurricane season may bring.

I’d love to know what you do. Leave me a comment below.

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