Preparing for a natural disaster or emergency with a disability

BOWLING GREEN, Ky.-If you live with a disability, are you prepared for a natural disaster?

“They do fine day to day, but when you add an emergency into that, that creates quite a challenge for them,” said Barren River District Health Department Disaster Preparedness and Response Branch Manager Janarae Conway. 

People with disabilities should take extra steps to prepare-it could be the difference between life and death. 

“People if they’ve got mobility issues, there’s folks with vision, hearing, cognitive or even chronic health conditions, they’re gonna have a challenge,” said Conway. 

Bowling Green local Michael Carter has ataxia, which means he doesn’t have total muscle control due to genetic brain damage in the cerebellum. He said it not only slurs his speech, but everything he does. 

“I know I’m slower than the average person so I know I have to have certain things in place,” said Carter. 

He has two service dogs, Flare and Chunk, who he trained through the non-profit GoodBoy. They help him with daily life…he would also have to make sure they are both accounted for and safe in a natural disaster too. 

“Having a fully trained service dog and one in training you have to think about where’s my dog, where’s the disaster happening,” said Carter. 

FEMA, who helps in severe natural disasters, recommends those with disabilities to take a few steps in advance including outlining a plan and building a kit. 

“Where is your meet up location? Having contact information written down, no one remembers phone numbers anymore. If it’s an event that’s projected, you can be like I need to go get a 3 month supply of medication before the event or my things in my to go kit are up to date,” said FEMA Disability Integration Advisor Lauren Fleming. 

Also, tell your neighbors about your situation.

“Just acknowledging your needs to those around you and your community, sometimes we run into situations where we don’t know what those needs are,” said FEMA Disability Integration Advisor Olanda Bryant.