When it comes to disasters, we recommend planning for 3 important things: communication, supplies, and shelter (including during an evacuation).
A communications plan helps if you aren’t with your family when a disaster strikes. If your children are at school or you’re at work, you’ll need a way to reconnect. Phone service (even for cell phones) might go out in a disaster, so it’s good to pick a family member or friend who lives in a different area that everyone can call as a way to check in. You can keep a written copy of this communication plan at your child’s school and give it to anyone else who takes care of your child.
A disaster kit with supplies in it is especially important if you have a child with a disability or special health-care needs. This “GO kit” has everything you need to leave your house for 72 hours. Another, larger kit should have everything you need to stay in your home for a week if there’s no water or electricity. We have ideas for what to pack in an emergency preparedness flier. And you can get more specific details about packing for a child with a disability or special health-care needs on our Emergency Preparedness for Families of Children with Disabilities page.
It’s a good idea to have your child help pack their own emergency bag, as much as they can. They can pick out a few toys or books that they’re OK not seeing for awhile and store the bag in the back of their closet. That way, they will have something of their own that’s special if you do have to evacuate.
An evacuation and shelter plan tells you evacuation routes and where you would be most likely to shelter, in or out of town. You can find your evacuation route by calling 2-1-1, or you can look at evacuation maps for cities on the Gulf Coast. You might shelter with an out-of-town relative, at a local school, or at a hospital. You can also search for and call your local American Red Cross to ask about emergency shelters.
Making an evacuation plan is tricky if your child uses equipment that would be hard to move. In this case, you might shelter at a hospital or a nursing home. You can talk to your local EMS to make an evacuation plan that includes help transporting your child to a place that would meet their medical needs. When Texas calls for evacuations, it is clear that people’s lives will be at risk, so we hope you’ll work with us at EMS. We can help you safely take care of all your family’s needs when the time comes.
Since the evacuation experiences of Hurricane Katrina, many local shelters in Texas have gotten prepared to support children who need medical equipment, such as ventilators, dialysis, oxygen, and more. And, if a shelter is not prepared, they can ask for state help to support your child. We also want you to know that most Texas shelters are prepared to support pets and service animals, so you can bring your pets with you too.
As EMS professionals, we’ve helped thousands of families in medical distress. We know that, if you have a child with a disability or special health-care needs, there may be times when you call 9-1-1 for help.
Here are some tips that can help you create a plan for this kind of call:
As EMS professionals, we have years of experience in emergency and disaster situations. In Central Texas, we’ve coordinated large scale responses to natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Rita, the Bastrop fires, the October floods of 2013, and more. Emergencies and natural disasters are stressful times for all of us. As EMS providers, we want to help you get through them. So, call 2-1-1 and ask to talk to your local EMS team if you want help making plans to take care of your child with a disability or special health-care need during one of these times.
Before I had my son, I was a special education teacher. I was one of those teachers who believed that these "special" kids needed to be kept safe. After teaching in a self-contained special education class, my views slowly started to change.