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Date: 09/06/2017
Title: Emergency preparedness - Recommendations for people with hearing and vision disabilities

As we hear about all the devastation that hurricane Harvey has left in Texas and Louisiana, and the country is preparing for hurricane Irma, we have complied some emergency preparedness suggestions.  We provide general suggestions for everybody, but make emphasis on people with hearing and vision disabilities emergency preparedness.
 
General Recommendations
Green evacuation sign with the drawing of a silhouette of a person crossing a doorThe American Red Cross recommends everybody the following:
- Prepare an Emergency Kit 
- Create an Emergency Plan: Discuss with your family or household members how to prepare and respond to an emergency. Identify responsibilities for each member of your household and how you will work together as a team. Practice as many elements of your plan as possible. The American Red Cross has in its website a downloadable template of a Family disaster Plan
- Be informed. “Identify how local authorities will notify you during a disaster and how you will get information, whether through local radio, TV or NOAA Weather Radio stations or channels.“

The Center for Diseases Control and prevention recommends Smart 911, “a free service used by public safety agencies across the country to enhance communication and response for their community.” 
 
With Smart911 you can create a private safety profile that transmits information you specify to the 9-1-1 dispatcher's computer screen when you place an emergency call.  The profile includes information about the people in your household- including their medical information, pets, phone numbers, home address, property details-for example a photo of your home for easy identification by help responders, vehicles, emergency contacts and communication preferences.

Emergency Preparedness for People Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing 
If you are deaf or hard of hearing take into account these additional suggestions.
 
A pen over a notebookBe informed
- “Find out which broadcasting systems use closed captioning or interpreters so you can stay up to date on emergency news. This is especially important if officials call for evacuation or advise you to stay indoors.
- “Ask neighbors or someone in your support network to help keep you informed.” 
- “Check that your local emergency system can interact with TTY or Internet-based relay services. Keep your TTY around even if you rarely use it, in case Internet service goes down.”
 
Communication with emergency responders
- “Keep extra batteries in your emergency supply kit for the devices you use to help you communicate.”
- “Keep hearing aids in a place you can find them easily during an emergency.”
- “Have paper and pens or pencils with you.”
- “Think about writing down things you need to say on paper and keep it with you. For example: “I use American Sign Language (ASL) and need an ASL interpreter.”

Emergency Preparedness for People with Vision Impairment
If you have vision impairments the following suggestions may also be useful:
 
Small rectangular and silver battery operated radio.Be ready
- “Label your preparedness supplies so you can identify them quickly and easily.
Store high-powered  flashlights with wide beams and extra batteries where you can find them easily.”
- “Make sure you have extra glasses or contact lenses.”
- “Keep a spare cane in your emergency kit.”
- “Keep lights in working order so emergency personnel can make their way around in your home in the event of an emergency.”
- “Don’t forget about a battery-operated radio. Some TV stations may only broadcast warnings as a text scroll at the bottom of the screen. In that case, having a radio will be critical to learning the latest information.”

Your Service Animal 
The American Council of the Blind Information compiled a list of emergency preparedness tips for your Service Animal.
 
- Identification. “Make sure that your service animal or pet has current identification tags, including both your home number and your out-of-state contact number… it could be as simple as affixing duct tape to their collar and writing the information on it in permanent marker. “
 
- Create a Disaster Kit for your service animal or pet. It should contain:
Red first-aid kit, with a red cross painted inside a white circle on top of the kit case“1. Any medications that your animal may require 
2. Extra leash and collar, harness and/or carrier. 
3. Food and water for three days
4. Bowl
5. Plastic bags for pick up
6. A favorite toy
7. Copy of your animal's health records, id numbers and veterinarian's contact information.
8. If possible, blanket or bed, tie-down and grooming supplies.
9. Animal first aid kit with items such as antibiotic creams, and antiseptic ointments.
10. Written instructions on the care of your animal and or photos and descriptions of your animal in case you are separated.”
 
- It is important to know that service animals must be permitted in shelters. “There are only two reasons a person with a disability may be asked to remove his service animal from the shelter: (1) the animal is out of control and the owner does not control it or (2) the animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others.”
 
- “Make a list of pet-friendly places and hotels, check with friends or relatives outside your area. You can also contact your local shelter, boarding facilities and veterinarian for information. ”


Hurricane season goes until the end of November.  Any preparedness you do now will help you face with more reassurance any emergency, in the case one happens.
 
 
Source: 
- “How to Prepare for Emergencies.” American Red Cross http://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies
-“Emergency Readiness for People with Disabilities.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/features/emergencypreparedness/
- “How it works.” Smart911, https://safety.smart911.com
- “Get Ready! Alaska’s emergency preparedness toolkit for people with disabilities.”  Alaska Health and Disability, http://dhss.alaska.gov/dph/wcfh/Documents/disability/GetReadyWebaccessible.pdf
- “Emergency Preparedness.” American Foundation for the Blind, http://www.afb.org/section.aspx?SectionID=65&TopicID=400&DocumentID=3242
- “Emergency Preparedness for your Service Animal or Pet Compiled by the American Council of the Blind.” Surprise Arizona, https://www.surpriseaz.gov/DocumentCenter/Home/View/2918 

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