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Persons with disabilities and disasters (Ch 5)

Baker LR, Cormier LA. Disasters and vulnerable populations: Evidence-based practice for the helping professions. Springer Publishing Company; 2014 Aug 26.

People with disabilities are some of the most vulnerable, and most commonly vulnerable, in disasters. When we consider chronic and recognized impairments with hearing, vision, mobility, and cognition, a considerable proportion of the general population is affected. Special needs also arise with prescription medications, temporary disability from illness or ​injury, or special needs not necessarily recognized as a disability. We should consider this category in very broad terms.

Disabilities pose challenges at every phase of a disaster - from receiving and heeding information announcing or guiding the need for extraordinary actions, to evacuation, to accessing chronic and urgent care during a disaster event. Dependance on caregivers, too, will be compromised by extreme events.

Recommendations for people with disability and disaster planners:

  • Personal preparedness kits for people with special needs

  • Plan for early evacuation for appropriate people

  • Designate emergency sheltering with necessary resources

  • Establish a volunteer communication system

  • Consider practicing evacuation with drills

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