Access and Functional Needs

Access and functional needs covers a wide range of situations - from needing mobility assistance, to having medical, mental, or developmental conditions that require assistance with daily living tasks, to being visually or hearing impaired. Even people who simply take medicine every day count in this population.  

Medical needs

Medical needs must be planned for well in advance of emergencies. Disasters can happen with little or no warning, and you can't count on having enough time to pick up extra medicine or medical supplies. Keep a 3 day supply of all current medicines as well as any medical supplies necessary. You also need to have an up-to-date list of which medications you take, what the dosages are, how often you take each one, and who prescribed each medication. Following a disaster, your doctor's office may not reopen for several months or at all. Keep copies of your insurance card and important medical records with you in your emergency kit, along with a list of your medical conditions, allergies, and medications. 

Please note - if you have special food needs of any kind, please plan for these ahead of time. Shelters may not be able to provide the right food for special diets, and nutrition information may not be available on the food that is served. 


Visual/hearing/communication impairments

For those with visual, hearing, or communication impairments, it is key to ensure that you have methods to be alerted to emergencies, and plans in place for both sheltering in place and evacuation. Notify officials if you go to a shelter so they can make accommodations. Keep a communications device, if you use one, in your kit with extra batteries or or other spare parts to make it easier to communicate. Also, have a backup plan of how to communicate if your device is lost, destroyed, or out of power. This might be something as simple as a pad of paper and some pencils, asking a friend or family member to help communicate, or designing pre-made cue cards. For those who are non-verbal, consider getting a medical ID necklace or bracelet to help emergency responders identify the individual. 

Service Animals

Service animals are allowed inside of shelters, but there may not be items like bedding and food available for them. Make sure to build an animal emergency preparedness kit for your service animals and pets. Some shelters may not allow emotional support animals inside and many do not allow regular pets. Remember - leaving your animals behind is not an option. If it's not safe for you, it's not safe for them. Make plans for your animals before a disaster hits. 

Make a plan access and functional needs

Functional and Access Needs power outage

Mobility impairments

If you use a wheelchair, walker, cane, or other assistive device, make sure your name is clearly written on it, along with a phone number or email address that someone can use to reach you if you and your device get separated. If you use a battery or electric powered wheelchair, or other battery powered assistive device, try to have a non-electric backup available and a spare battery charged at all times. 

Behavior/ Mental Health

Disasters can be very stressful situations, and they can lead to disruptions in daily routines, access to support systems and medication, and being removed from familiar environments. Plan ahead when creating your emergency kit, and be sure to include current medications, as well as copies of insurance cards, medical records including those from mental health or other service providers, a list of medications with dosages, times to take each medication, and the name of the prescribing doctor. 

Also include items that may make dealing with high-stress, high noise situations easier, such as head phones, ear plugs, and comfort items, such as snacks or toys that meet needs for simulation or engagement.