Individual Emergency Preparedness Guide
created by people with disabilities for the disability community
Created with funding from the Colorado Department of Health and Environment
Prepare for what type of disaster?
In Colorado, residents should be prepared to evacuate or shelter in place for hazardous situations, including:
- Winter Storms and Blizzards
- Extreme Heat or Cold
- Natural Gas Leaks or Explosions
- Disease Epidemic
- Hazardous Materials Spills
Basic services such as electricity, gas, water, sewage treatment, and telephones may be cut off for days or even longer. Local officials and relief workers are sent to a scene after a disaster, but they cannot reach everyone immediately. You could get help in hours, or it might take days.
The following is a guide to help you prepare in advance for possible emergency situations. While it may seem overwhelming or cost prohibitive to do everything suggested, it is better to do something rather than nothing at all. Pick what information works for you and select preparedness items that fit within your budget. Preparing may take some time so working in sections may be helpful instead of tackling your emergency plan all at once.
Create Your Emergency Preparedness Kits
Prepare a To Go Emergency Kit
You may need to evacuate at a moment’s notice and take essentials with you. You probably will not have the opportunity to shop or search for the supplies you need. An emergency supplies kit is a collection of basic items that you may need in the event of a disaster. Supplies should be kept in a container or backpack that you can easily take with you. Keep in a designated place and let all household members know where it is.
- Personal Hygiene Supplies
- Food and Water
- Canned meats, fruits, vegetables
- High energy foods: nut butter, granola bars, trail mix, nuts, dried fruit
- Cash, coins and credit cards
- Important Documents
- Insurance policies
- Family records and contact information
- Bank and credit card accounts
- Inventory of Valuables
Additional Suggestions for To Go Kit
- First Aid Supplies
- Blankets or sleeping bag
- Flashlight – battery, solar or hand crank
- Weather radio
- Portable GPS
- Dust Mask
- Manual can opener and utensils
- Camping or disposable dishes, cups, etc.
- Pocket toolkit
- Matches or lighter and candles
- Compass and local maps
- Pencil, paper, books, games
- Cell phone chargers/extra battery
- Toilet paper and plastic disposal bags
- Disinfectant and/or sanitizer sprays/gels
Disability Related Items to Consider for To Go Kit
- Extra Eyeglasses and/or contact lenses
- Hearing Aids and extra batteries
- Battery chargers and extra batteries for motorized wheelchairs, medical devices and assistive technology devices
- Record of the style and serial numbers for support devices regularly used
- Copies of medical prescriptions
- Medical alert tags/bracelets and/or written descriptions of disability and support needs
- List of allergies and physician contact information
- Insurance cards, Medicare/Medicaid cards
- A laminated personal communication board
- Extra medication, oxygen, insulin, catheters or medical supplies
- Asthma inhaler, dust mask
- A light weight manual wheelchair for emergency transport
- List of family and/or neighbor contacts
Prepare a To Stay Kit for sheltering in place
The length of time you may be required to shelter indoors may be short, such as during a tornado warning, or long, such as during a winter storm. For your safety, it is important that you stay inside your shelter until local authorities say it is safe to leave. Sheltering indoors means managing your food and water supplies and storing them to last. Check expiration dates and replace when needed.
- FOOD and WATER: In addition to the supplies in the TO GO Kit, you will want to make sure you have enough FOOD and WATER for at least 3 days. Select foods that are non-perishable and do not require refrigeration, can be easily prepared and cooked with little or no water. Avoid foods that will make you thirsty by choosing saltfree crackers, whole grain cereals, and canned foods with high liquid content.
- TOOLS, FLASHLIGHT, RADIO: You may not have access to electricity or gas.
- CLOTHING: Clothing and bedding that is clean, dry and appropriate for weather conditions.
- FIRST AID KIT: Assemble your own or purchase one. Don’t forget to include any medication you regularly take.
Water – frequently asked questions
Q: How much water do I need?
A: At least a 3 DAY supply of water = at least 1 gallon of water per person, per day. Additionally, plan for certain situations:
- Amounts needed may vary, depending on age, physical condition, activity level
- Climate: very hot temperatures can double the amount of water needed
Q: How should I store water?
A: The safest and most reliable emergency supply of water is usually commercially bottled water. Keep bottled water in its original container and do not open it until you need to use it. Store it in a cool and dry place.
Q: Can I fill my own water containers?
A: Yes, but only use plastic (such as soda liters bottles) as glass is too heavy and can break and cardboard cartons can leak. You MUST clean any container you will use for drinkable water before filling. Place a date on the outside of the container so that you know when you filled it.
Prepare a Vehicle Emergency Kit
A roadside emergency can happen at any time, whether your car is new or old. You may also find yourself stranded due to mechanical failure, running out of fuel and/or severe weather conditions. It is important to periodically check and maintain your vehicle, check that the spare tire is properly inflated, batteries are not discharged, first-aid supplies are current, water is fresh and food is dry.
- Cellular phone
- Tool Kit
- First Aid Kit
- Fire Extinguisher
- Warning light, hazard triangle
- Tow strap
- Tire gauge
- Windshield scraper
- Jack and lug wrench
- Jumper cables
- Gloves and hand cleaner
- Flashlight and flares
- Matches or lighter
- Extra clothing
- Space blanket
- Folding shovel
- Bag of cat litter
- Drinking water and dry food
- Coins, cash and credit cards
Tools – Flashlights – Weather Radios
Tools: Screwdrivers, crescent wrenches, wire cutters and duct tape are basic supplies to include in a toolkit. Make sure you know how to turn off:
Keep several types of flashlights readily available. Battery powered, solar and/or hand crank are available. Some flashlights are powered by all three methods. LED flashlights last longer than bulbs.
Battery powered, solar and/or hand crank combinations are available. Some include clocks, sirens, flashlights and cell phone chargers. Digital tuners work best.
- NOAA weather = 7 channels plus “alerts”
- S.A.M.E. = location
Prepare an Emergency Kit for Pets
If you must evacuate your home, DO NOT LEAVE YOUR PETS BEHIND! For public health reasons, many emergency shelters will not accept pets unless it is a service animal. Find out which motels and hotels in the area you plan to evacuate to who allow pets and include your local animal shelter number in your list of contact numbers.
- Pet Food (for at least 3 days)
- Bottled Water
- Veterinary Records
- Current Photo
- Cat Litter and Pan
- Tags, Collars, Leashes
- Can Opener
- Food Dishes
- First Aid Kit
- Pet Carrier
- Chew Toys
Remember that leaving your pet(s) at home alone can place them in great danger! If this is unavoidable, confine pets to a safe area inside - NEVER leave your pets chained outside! Leave them inside your home with food and plenty of water. Place a notice on the door stating what pets are in the house and where they are located. Provide a phone number where you or a primary contact can be reached as well as the number of your veterinarian.
During and After a Disaster:
- Immediately bring pets inside
- Have newspapers ready for sanitation
- Feed moist food to prevent thirst
- Separate dogs, cats and small children
- Try to keep pets calm
- Leash pets when outside as familiar scents/landmarks may have changed
- Stay clear of downed power lines
Create Your Emergency Preparedness Plan
Create an Evacuation Plan
- Identify escape routes from your home or building (ask your family or friends for assistance, if necessary).
- Plan two evacuation routes because some routes may be closed or blocked in a disaster.
- Create a network (neighbors, relatives, friends) to help you in an emergency. Discuss your medical needs and make sure everyone knows how to operate any necessary equipment you depend on.
- If you are mobility impaired, use an escape chair.
- Keep your Emergency Preparedness Kit available.
- Plan for keeping medications that require refrigeration cold.
- Wear medical alert tags, bracelets or carry information identifying your disability.
- Learn the locations and availability of more than one facility if you are dependent on a dialysis machine or other life-sustaining equipment.
- Create back-up plans for Attendant Care and/or caregivers.
- Take a First Aid or CPR Class - American Red Cross chapters can provide information about this type of training
- Learn How to Use a Fire Extinguisher - Know how to use your fire extinguisher(s) and where it is kept. You should have, at a minimum, an ABC type fire extinguisher.
Organize Your Medications
What would you do if you had to explain this to other people?
Organize your medications into easily identifiable and labeled containers.
Keep medications up-to-date / check expiration dates.
If possible, fill extra prescriptions to keep for emergencies.
Create a log of your medications*
(as an example, include the below information)
Date of Birth:
Current Medical Conditions:
Allergies to Medications:
Medication, Dosage, Frequency
*Due to accessibility limitations the actual table graph has not been included in the HTML version of this document. The table graph is available here as as well as in the PDF version which is available for download at the end of this page. If you have any issues accessing the table graph please contact Emily vonSwearingen at 303-839-1775 or firstname.lastname@example.org .
Compile your Documents
If a disaster strikes and you must evacuate immediately, make sure all of your documents are organized and ready to go in one place. Make copies of all documents and cards and keep in a secure place such as a portable safe. Or, scan the documents and save them on a portable USB flash drive. There are many options for USB flash drives such as pocket tools, necklaces and bracelets!
Insurance: property owners and renters should fully explore their insurance needs and obtain adequate coverage before a disaster strikes. Insurance cards should be readily available.
- Medical Coverage: Medicare/Medicaid cards, Health Insurance cards, should be readily available.
- ID: Social Security cards, Driver’s License, State Issued ID and other forms of identification.
- Finances: Credit cards, Bank account numbers, Wills, Deeds, CD’s, Stocks and Bond Certificates.
- Contact: Phone numbers/addresses of family, friends, caregivers.
Register Your Phone Numbers
In most Colorado Counties, you can register to receive Emergency Alerts on your Landline, Cell Phone, Internet Phone or Pager, and/or by Text Message, E-Mail or Fax through the Emergency Notification Service (ENS).
The Emergency Notification Service places a warning call to all landline telephone numbers within a County if there is a threat by a public hazard or emergency. A recorded message will be played, alerting residents to the hazard and instructing on what to do.
Newer, Enhanced Emergency Notification Service allows you to register your cell phone numbers, Internet phones, pagers, fax machines,text message addresses, e-mail addresses and other telephone numbers and messaging addresses with the ENS Database. When the ENS system is activated, the service will send recorded or text messages to each of these numbers and addresses in addition to your home phone (if you have one).
If you receive a call from an ENS or Enhanced ENS system, do not call 9-1-1 to confirm the message. During a public emergency, the 9-1-1 Call Center(s) will be busy handling 9-1-1 calls, dispatching and coordinating First Responder activities. Only call if you have an emergency situation. If you have questions or concerns regarding ENS services, please contact your local County Sheriff or Police Department.
Check this website to see if your county is listed for ENS and if so, link to the registration form: http://www.9-1-1colorado.org/notification.html
Register with Utilities
In serious situations during extended power outages, those who depend on electrically-powered life support equipment may need to seek medical assistance or to relocate to a public shelter that has back-up power generation.
If you require life support equipment, you may be able to register as a Life Support Designation Customer and have higher priority for power restoration. Contact your local power company to check if you qualify.
- Keep backup batteries for wheelchairs and other equipment charged in advance if possible
- Identify local shelters who have back-up power generators
- Consider investing in your own personal back-up power generator
- Keep flashlight, radios and cell phones batteries charged or invest in solar and/or hand crank versions
Notify Local First Responders
Your municipal 9-1-1 Call Center may have a “Special Needs Registry”. This provides dispatchers with advance warning of any special needs or disabilities you may have and passes this information on to first responders in the event of an emergency. The information you submit will be visible to the dispatcher when a 9-1-1 call is received. To register, you will need to provide information about your disability, mobility issues, speech communication issues, medical devices you depend on, service animal details and emergency contact information. Contact your local law enforcement or fire department for more information.
(Lifesaving Information For Emergencies) is a program for individuals to provide medical information in advance that can be used by first responders in the case of an emergency. Vial of Life program materials are usually available for free and can be downloaded and produced by the individual.
The program consists of a vial (empty pill bottle or other container), labeled with a Vial of Life sticker. A medical form stating the health status of the individual and current medications, is folded inside and the vial is placed in the refrigerator, because refrigerator contents are usually preserved in the event of a fire. Stickers are placed in the front window of the home so that responding emergency personnel will know to look for the Vial.
Contact http://www.vialoflife.com/ or 1-888-473-2800
Plan for Pet Sheltering
If you must evacuate your home in a crisis, plan for the worst-case scenario. Arrange a safe haven for your pets in the event of evacuation. DO NOT LEAVE YOUR PETS BEHIND.
- Contact your veterinarian for a list of preferred boarding kennels and facilities.
- Ask your local animal shelter if they provide emergency shelter or foster care for pets.
- Ask friends and relatives if they would be willing to take in your pet.
- Store an emergency kit and leashes as close to an exit as possible.
- Make sure all pets wear collars and tags with up-to-date identification.
- Consider your evacuation route and call ahead to make arrangements for boarding your pet outside of the danger zone.
Rescue Alert Sticker
The offers free stickers to let people know that pets are inside your home. Make sure it is visible to rescue workers. If you must evacuate with your pets, and if time allows, write "EVACUATED" across the stickers.
The ASPCA recommends microchipping your pet as a form of identification. The small microchip implant can be scanned at most shelters.
Protect Your Property
If you aren’t sure whether your property is at risk from disasters and natural hazards, check with your local building official, city engineer, or planning and zoning administrator or ask your landlord to do so if you are a renter. They can tell you whether you are in an area where floods, earthquakes, wildfires, or tornadoes are likely to occur and usually give advice on how to protect your property.
- Build With Flood Damage Resistant Materials
- Raise Electrical System Components
- Anchor Fuel Tanks
- Install Sewer Backflow Valves
- Protect Windows and Doors with Covers
- Reinforce or Replace Garage Doors and Gutters
- Remove Trees and Debris
- Secure Metal Siding and Metal Roofing
- Secure Built-Up and Shingled Roofing
- Clear Vegetation and Combustible Materials
- Replace Roofing with Fire Resistant Materials
Share Information With Your Network
- Meet with family, friends, and caregivers to discuss the dangers of natural disasters and other emergencies. Explain how to respond to each.
- Find the safe areas in your home for different types of disasters.
- Draw a floor plan of your home and mark two escape routes from each room.
- Show how to turn off the water, gas and electricity at the main switches.
- Post emergency contact numbers near telephones.
- Teach children how and when to call 911, police and fire.
- Instruct how to turn on the weather radio for emergency information.
- Pick one out-of-state and one local contact to call if separated during a disaster (it is often easier to call out-of-state than within the affected area).
- Show where the emergency kits are stored and other important items.
- Provide lists of medical facilities and animal shelters.
- Provide written information about your disability.
- Show how your medical devices work: wheelchair, oxygen, ventilator, assistive communication, etc. Show where your batteries and accessories are kept.
- Show where your medications are kept. Provide a detailed log of medications, doses and frequency taken.
Organize Your Community
Create or Join a Community Network
- Build a Coalition of family, friends, neighbors – help members build an emergency kit, plan an evacuation assembly location
- Ask Businesses for donations: items for kits, food/water, emergency supplies
- Develop community projects: build ramps, shovel snow/clear ice, mow lawns, pick-up litter, food drive, clothing drive
- Ask local Banks to sponsor community projects
- Network with Organizations on projects: Non-Profits, Senior Centers, Churches, Scout Troops, Schools
- Get involved in local municipal government
- Join boards and commissions
- Get involved in policy issues with Police, Sheriff, Fire Departments
- Get information from Health Department and distribute to network
- Attend City Council meetings
- Attend County Commission meetings
- Connect with your local Emergency Preparedness Committee: http://www.coloradoepc.org/ - click on Local LEPCs
Community Network – Disability and Access
In your network, anticipate disability and access needs in advance, before a disaster or emergency strikes! Certain needs to consider include:
- Blind or visually impaired: May need assistance in reaching safety or a shelter. Guide dogs may become very disoriented or confused in a disaster.
- Deaf or hard of hearing: May need to make special arrangements to receive warnings.
- Mobility impaired: May need assistance and transportation to evacuate to a shelter.
- Medical conditions: Should know the location of a facility that provides a dialysis machine or other lifesustaining equipment.
- People with Dementia: Should be registered in the Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return Program. http://www.alz.org/safetycenter/
- Special dietary needs: Should take advance precautions to ensure adequate food supply.
- Non-English speakers: May need help obtaining information and planning for emergencies.
- People without vehicles: May need to make advance plans for transportation.
- Pets with medical conditions: Pets who are diabetic, require medications or have other medical conditions, should be sheltered by someone who can appropriately care for their needs.
Municipal Emergency Operation Plans (EOP’s)
The Colorado Division of Emergency Management (DEM) is responsible for the state's comprehensive emergency management program and supports local and state agencies. Activities and services cover the four phases of emergency management for disasters like flooding, tornadoes, wildfire, hazardous materials spills, and acts of terrorism.
The DEM offers financial and technical assistance to local governments as well as training and exercise support. Services are made available through local emergency managers supported by DEM staff assigned to specific areas of the state. During an actual emergency or disaster, DEM coordinates the state response and recovery program to support local governments and maintains the state's Emergency Operations Center (EOC) where representatives from other state departments and agencies coordinate the state response to an emergency situation. http://dola.colorado.gov
Questions to ask your local DEM staff to make sure plans are disability friendly include:
- Do they provide American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation?
- Are designated emergency shelters fully accessible?
- Do emergency shelters accommodate service animals?
- Do emergency shelters provide personal attendants for the disabled?
- Is Emergency Para-transit available for evacuation to shelters?
Emergency Operation Plans – Police, Fire and Health Depts.
The Colorado Division of Emergency Management (DEM) coordinates emergency and disaster Preparedness, Prevention, Response and Recovery efforts with local Law Enforcement, Fire Departments, First Responders and the Health Department. Take the initiative to find out how prepared these individual departments are in working with the disabled community.
- Let them know if you have a disability
- Register with the 9-1-1 “Special Needs Registry”
- Do these departments utilize video relay, TTY, sign language interpreters?
- What are their policies in working and dealing with people who have mental illness and/or physical disabilities?
- How do they handle situations involving service animals?
If there is a flu epidemic or other public health emergency, the Health Department will take the lead.
- Contact them for information and brochures and distribute to your network
- Participate in a disaster training exercise for First Responders
The following resources were utilized for research and information (current as of May 2011)
9-1-1 Colorado Foundation: http://www.9-1-1colorado.org/notification.html and http://www.9-1-1colorado.org/pdfs/Directory.pdf
Alzheimer Association: http://www.alz.org/safetycenter/
American Red Cross: http://www.redcross.org/
ASPCA – The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals: http://www.aspca.org
Colorado Division of Emergency Management: http://dola.colorado.gov and www.coemergency.com
Colorado Emergency Planning Commission: http://www.coloradoepc.org
Consumer Reports – Roadside Emergency Kit: http://www.consumerreports.org
Federal Emergency Management Agency: http://www.fema.gov
National Organization on Disability: http://www.nod.org
Ready America: http://www.ready.gov
Vial of Life Project: http://www.vialoflife.com
Created by Emily vonSwearingen, CCDC Director of Communications and Development with Kristin Castor, CCDC Southern Colorado Coordinator and George O’Brien, CCDC Advocate.
Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition (CCDC)
655 Broadway, Suite 775, Denver, Colorado 80203
303.839.1775 (Voice), 303.839.1782 (Fax)
The Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition (CCDC) is a statewide 501(c)3 non-profit. CCDC’s mission is to promote social justice and create systems change that will benefit people with all types of disabilities. Programs include: Individual and Systemic Advocacy, Legal Programs, Policy and Legislation and Training/Consulting. Annual membership is open to individuals and family members with a disability as well friends, co-workers and allies of the disability community.