If your autistic child is starting a new school, is it enough to review social stories? If your child is blind, is it sufficient to inform your neighbor of his disability? These are good strategies for keeping life's pace steady for problems that can be anticipated, but they are not enough to handle unforeseen events. Families with kids who have Special Needs should prepare for life's unexpected events, as should all families. Tornados, earthquakes, fires, school disturbances all happen. Here are a few ways to prepare:
Download the Emergency Information Form for Children with Special Needs. This form by the American Academy of Pediatrics and American College of Emergency Physicians helps ensure prompt and appropriate care for children with special needs. The form helps provide a concise summary of a child's complicated medical history for ERs or health professionals. Find it at http://www.acep.org.
Contact the fire department. Call the fire department for a hazards request form or send them one online at www.indy.gov. If 911 is called, this form alerts firefighters of any special needs someone in your family has. Captain Rita Reith of the Indianapolis Fire Department says this information is only good for about six months, so update the information regularly.
Assess your family's needs. Make a list of the things each member of your family needs to survive. Food, water, clothes, medications, medical equipment and other essentials go on the list.
Pack an emergency kit. Jennifer Akers, project coordinator with Family Voices, tells families to make an emergency supplies kit. She says to gather and store supplies in advance so your family can more readily handle an evacuation or home confinement. Purchase and gather necessary items over a period of weeks or months and be sure to recycle water, food and other perishable items from your kit every few months.
Beyond food, water, flashlights, clothes and blankets, include as appropriated a two-week supply of all disposable medical supplies, two-week supply of all prescription and non-prescription medications, a generator or battery backup for medical equipment, copies of medical prescriptions, extra contact lenses or glasses, extra batteries for hearing aids and communication devices, special dietary foods, and manual wheelchairs and other necessary equipment.
Pack a kit for your car. Consider placing a pared down emergency kit to have on-hand in your car.
Decide where to meet. Set a specific location outside of the house where your family will meet in case of a fire. Select another location away from home should the disaster prevent family members from returning to the house.
Plan escape routes. Determine the best way out of your house. Likewise, discuss the safest places in your home to go during tornadoes and earthquakes. For tornadoes, seek shelter in a basement or in a small center room on the home's lowest level. Avoid windows. For earthquakes, locate safe places void of potentially falling objects. It's a good idea to bolt heavy furniture to wall studs and move heavy items to low shelves.
Involve kids in your plan. The more involved your kids are in making the family emergency plan, the more apt they will be to remember and follow through on the plan in the event of a crisis.
Identify support. The American Red Cross recommends families create a personal support network of people who can help you get the resources you need to cope effectively with an emergency situation. This can be a trusted neighbor, extended family member or friend. It can also be resources like 211 or Family Voices who can point you to health and human services in times of need.
Select an out-of-town contact. Sometimes it's easier to connect with people not in your community since those who are local may also be in the midst of the same crisis. Identify someone from another town and have all family members learn this person's number. In an emergency, family members can call this person to tell them where they are.
Being prepared to handle a crisis of any kind is good planning for every parent. For those families with special needs children, this advanced preparation becomes even more essential. Take the time today to put these suggestions into action and gain peace of mind that your loved ones will be as safe as possible in an emergency.