storm-1Severe weather threats and other natural disasters can be terrifying experiences for any family. For families of children with special needs, as much advance notice and planning as is possible can help in gathering additional items, like important documents, medical forms or AAC batteries. We recommend not waiting for a severe weather alert to be issued to get prepared. Here are a couple of items in addition to the basic food, water and shelter that we’d recommend special needs families consider in their emergency preparedness planning.

Gather important documents—in addition to birth certificates and insurance documents make sure to place IEPs in a safe place. If you leave your home for the hurricane, bring this with you in the event that you have to relocate temporarily after the storm passes.

Grab some cash and gas—power outages will affect ATM machines and credit card terminals at stores, gas stations and other places. So if standing in long bank lines after a hurricane doesn’t sound like fun, we recommend you withdrawal money during the days leading up to the hurricane. Don’t forget to make sure your car is filled with gas!

Do a medications check—do you have a list of all the medications your family takes daily? As parents we tend to focus so much on our kids but make sure to include at least a 10 day supply for each person—including you and other adults in the house. Pack this list and the frequency of each with your important documents. If you take vitamins or are prone to allergies make sure to also include over the counter medications that will help.

Get the basics-in addition to food, water, batteries and a first aid kit, don’t forget to pack toilet paper, matches, cell phone chargers—both car and wall chargers so if there is not electricity you can charge in your car. Other great recommendations we heard are: charcoal for outdoor BBQ should gas and electricity not be available for cooking and filling up your bathtubs with water so you can flush your toilets in the event waterlines are down. Make sure batteries or chargers for communication devices are also included!

Engage and educate the kids—kids take our cues so if we are panicked they will be too. Even if we are calm, we’re running about packing up stuff and televisions reports are bombarding us with hurricane images so kids likely know something is up. Here are some tips on ways to help kids prepare themselves:

  • Develop a routine for the routine interrupter—leading up to the hurricane, talk with your child about what you plan to do once the hurricane nears. Go over step-by-step, in general terms, about what you will do if the hurricane comes while they are sleeping, eating or other things they might be doing. Explain where you will go when the hurricane hits and what you will all need to do. Hopefully by talking about it repeatedly, it won’t be too much of a shocker when it comes.
  • Pack up together—depending on the age and developmental stage of your child, consider including them on getting the items you need for your preparations. By including them it might help reduce their fear. If they are unable to physically pack items, having them present when you are packing, this too can help them know what things are available in the kit. If appropriate you could ask them to select one or two items they want to pack—books, small toys, etc.
  • Pack rewards—to help encourage positive behavior during a time that can be filled with uncertainty and chaos, pack a couple of rewards you can give your child to recognize them during a challenging environment.
  • First Responder ID game—Show images or read books of the different types of people that help others during emergencies. Explain to them how firefighters and police officers help our communities so they aren’t afraid if they see these responders after the hurricane.

The uncertainty around natural disasters, their paths and their strength doesn’t allow for perfect planning. The most important thing is the safety of you and your family. Some of these tips may apply to your family’s needs others might not and may require adapting. If you have others tips or ideas, please share with us as a comment to this article so others can learn from you. Be safe!

Related article:
Emergency and Disaster Preparation for Special Needs Families