It’s that time of year. Hurricane season is just beginning.
USSAAC stands by to help individuals who use AAC. If you (or a family member) use AAC tools/technologies that are damaged or lost during a natural disaster (hurricane, flood, wildfire, tornado, or earthquake), we can help.
Go to AACDisasterRelief.org, USSAAC’s Disaster Relief portal. USSAAC posts up-to-date, relevant information during a disaster. You can request help, offer to volunteer or donate.
One. Evacuate Before It Is Mandatory
If you are in the path of a hurricane, get out as soon as evacuation is recommended. Hurricanes, unlike floods and fires, are advance-notice events. Take advantage of the warning. Shelter space may be limited because of the need for social distancing. People with disabilities are at risk of being diverted to nursing homes. An accessible weather radio can help you keep up with warnings and instructions from authorities.
Two. Identify Who Will Help You Evacuate
Consider more than one support person in case your primary support person becomes ill or unavailable.
Three. Prepare Your Go-Kit
Prepare a go-kit that includes face masks, disinfectant wipes, and cleaning supplies you might need, particularly should you end up in an emergency shelter or nursing home. Don’t neglect medical information, emergency contacts, and prescriptions. Consider completing and including this Communication Passport for Accidents and Emergencies. If you use AAC, review the recommendations in Prepare for the Hospital – Plan Your Communication Strategy.
Four. Decide Where You Can Go And Stay
Plan now with friends and family where you can go to get out of the way of a hurricane’s path. Have backup locations should your first option not be available due to Covid-19 or another reason. Avoid plans to use a public shelter if you have any other options. Shelters will be screening people for Covid-19 symptoms. You could end up in a quarantine environment that’s not desirable for your needs.
Five. Consider Your Needs While Staying With Friends Or Family
Will you need a bath chair, grab bars, transfer bench or adapted eating utensils? Can you store an extra set of these items in their homes?
Six. Consider Your Powered Equipment
Do you have backup batteries, car or solar charges for your AT? Can you evacuate or shelter in place with non-powered alternatives in case you lose access to power? Consider acquiring a lightweight manual wheelchair for evacuation purposes and a laminated “low-tech” communication board if you use a communication device. Your state may have a reuse program that can provide back-up durable medical equipment at no or low cost. Find your state’s device reutilization program.
Seven. Email Yourself Your AT Information (Now!)
Keep information about your AT available in the cloud. Consider emailing yourself your device make and model number; how it was obtained (Medicaid, private insurance, personal pay), where you purchased it, any other important information should you need to replace your AT unexpectedly. Create a subject line you can search and find in the future.
Eight. Plan Your Shelter Stay
If your only option is a public shelter, contact your local emergency management office in advance of any emergency. Discuss your needs with them to make sure the shelter can accommodate you. Shelter locations and capacities may be different during the pandemic because of social distancing requirements.
Nine. If You Intend To Just Stay Home…
Don’t, if at all possible (unless advised by authorities). If you do shelter in place, remember power outages may last much longer because of limited utility personnel due to the pandemic. Stock up on water, food, medications, and backup power options such as charged batteries and a generator. You’ll still need to prepare for an emergency evacuation, so don’t neglect to prepare a go-kit and the additional recommendations listed here.
Pandemic from the Department of Homeland Security
Hurricane Season 2020 and Covid-19 from the FTC
Going to a Public Disaster Shelter During the Covid-19 Pandemic from the CDC
American Meteorological Society Tornado Sheltering Guidelines during the COVID19 Pandemic (4.9.2020)