Preparing for disasters when you have a child with special needs

stormIt is important to know what to do to protect yourself and your family in case of an emergency.  It is essential that you know what to do if you have a baby or child with special needs.

Since June is National Safety Month sponsored by the National Safety Council, and this week’s theme is emergency preparation, it is appropriate that I talk about how to prepare for an emergency when you have a child with special needs.

Where can you find information?

Family Voices is an organization dedicated to helping families care for their special needs children. They offer tips on how to keep your special needs kids safe in an emergency or disaster. They say:

“If your son or daughter has special health care needs, your emergency plan will probably be more complicated, involve more people, and may require equipment. This will be the case if your child or youth:

   • Depends on electricity — to breathe, be fed, stay comfortable;
   • Cannot be moved easily because of his medical condition or attachment to equipment;
   • Uses a wheelchair, walker, or other device to move;
   • Cannot survive extreme temperatures, whether hot or cold;
   • Becomes afraid or agitated when sudden changes happen;
   • Cannot get out of an emergency by herself for physical or emotional reasons.”

They recommend you download the interactive emergency form available on the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) website. This is a terrific resource which can be updated as your child grows and changes. You can see all of Family Voices ideas and resources on their webpage. They also have “Family-to-Family Health Information Centers” (F2F HICs) in every state to “provide assistance and support in emergency preparation.”  Click here to learn more about the F2F HICs, or to find one in your state. 

Our website has lots of good info on how to prepare for a natural disaster. In addition, Ready.gov has info for families with individuals who have special needs. They have an easy to follow preparation list. You will also find all sorts of tips, such as how your phone can alert you of an impending emergency.

How can your kids help?

You can get your kids involved in creating a plan, too. It helps them to feel involved and to better remember what to do when the time comes, because they helped to create the plan. Ready.gov has a kid-friendly webpage with activities to get them engaged in preparing for an emergency, which includes an activity book for kids.

They also have a printable brochure with tips on how to prepare for a disaster for people with disabilities that covers how to help individuals with functional or special access needs.

Bottom line

Don’t wait to prepare for an emergency or a disaster until it is upon you. With a little bit of foresight, you can have a plan in place and have peace of mind.  And, if or when the time comes, your special needs child will be well taken care of.

Have questions? Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.com.

Note: This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started on January 16, 2013 and appears every Wednesday. Go to News Moms Need and click on “Help for your child” on the menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date. As always, we welcome your comments and input.

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