First Aid and Disaster Safety for People with Special Needs

Emergencies can happen at any time, often without warning. An emergency can involve weather, such as an earthquake, winds, or flooding from a storm. An emergency might also involve a fire or a personal injury such as a fall. Individuals with disabilities or special needs will need to take steps to ensure their safety by being prepared to respond appropriately in an emergency or natural disaster. Having a plan in place that covers communication, evacuation, and having the necessary equipment available will help minimize negative repercussions from the emergency.

First Aid

First aid will often be necessary after an emergency event. Knowing how to respond initially when an injury or illness occurs is crucial, especially for individuals with disabilities. First aid usually occurs before emergency help arrives, and it can intercede to prevent serious health issues and even death. First aid may involve performing CPR to maintain blood flow and oxygen levels until emergency help arrives. First aid may also involve assisting with a broken bone, laceration, or head injury. The idea is to use common sense to preserve life, prevent further harm, and assist with recovery.

Making a First Aid and Safety Kit

A first aid and safety kit ensures preparedness in a variety of emergencies. Several types of kits will be appropriate for different situations. A small first aid kit can be something an individual carries at all times, including essential items that could be needed in an emergency such as medicine, bandages, health information, and a flashlight. A grab kit consists of a small bag that holds items needed for a fast evacuation. This kit should contain all important items that may be needed for a couple of days away from home as well as cash, a cell phone, and a signaling device. A home kit is a larger kit that will enable self-sufficiency for several days, either in the home or in a shelter. This kit should include important items such as respirators, hearing aids, batteries, eyeglasses, communication devices, medication, emergency food and water, first aid materials, and emergency health information. A bedside kit contains items needed in a situation involving entrapment in or around a bed. This kit should contain important items that may be needed to get by for several hours, such as medication and a cell phone. A car kit should be kept in a vehicle, and it should contain items that might be needed in an evacuation or if stranded in a vehicle.

Fire Safety

Individuals with special needs such as mobility limitations, visual impairment, or hearing impairment will need to take specific steps to ensure fire safety. People with vision problems must take precautions when working in the kitchen, when using electricity, and with home heating methods. Those with hearing problems will need to rely on their senses of smell and vision to remain safe. Always follow manufacturer guidelines when using heating and other appliances. Smoke alarms for people with hearing impairment will have flashing lights to alert them of the danger. Individuals with mobility limitations will need to keep mobility devices near at all times, and emergency responders should be alerted of their disability.

Making a Fire Escape Plan

A detailed fire escape plan will be crucial for people with disabilities. The plan must contain evacuation steps that will meet the specific needs of the individual and help them to escape a home or building in the event of a fire. If an individual cannot evacuate independently, a plan must be in place to provide assistance with evacuation. After making the plan, it's wise to practice it to ensure that everyone involved knows what to do.

Natural Disaster Safety

Natural disaster safety for people with special needs and disabilities involves creating a support network of people who will be ready and able to assist after a disaster. Optimally, the network should involve at least three different people, in case one or two are unavailable to help. The disabled person should determine what assistance might be needed, such as help with evacuation, personal care, getting water and food, and ensuring that needed electrical equipment is functioning.

Making a Disaster Safety Kit

A disaster safety kit will contain all equipment and supplies that might be needed by an individual in the case of evacuation or unexpected loss of service in a home. The kit should include all equipment and medication that will be needed. A basic first-aid kit will enable response to any minor injuries. Having a three-day supply of water and nonperishable food, a flashlight, hygiene items, a whistle, extra clothing, warm outerwear, cash, and tools will also help ensure safety and health in a disaster.

You are well on your way toward protecting your staff and organization.

Take the next step toward protecting your organization by learning more about emergency notification systems and the vital role they play in your emergency preparedness plan.