Evacuating with Family Members with Special Needs

Though many of us might prefer to ride out a hurricane or some other disaster in our own homes, safety may require you to pack up and get out of harm's way. To best manage an evacuation scenario, you may need to do a little more advance planning for your family member with special needs. Whether your family member requires a certain prescription or has more complicated needs, here are some things you can do to help ensure his or her comfort and safety when you evacuate:

  • Create a "go bag" filled with items the family member will - or may - need (e.g., medication, an assistive device or other medical supplies). You might want to include a list of items, such as a stuffed animal or other comfort item, you don't want to store in the bag but would still want to make sure you bring with you. Also consider bringing a positioning pillow or other items that will help your family member to be more comfortable throughout the evacuation.
  • Make a note of the size and weight of the family member's wheelchair, if applicable. This information may come in handy if the chair needs to be transported. Also, make sure your vehicle is in good working order and up to date on its maintenance schedule.
  • Be sure to have your medical insurance and Medicare/Medicaid information, physician contact information, a list of the family member's allergies and his or her general health history (a convenient option might be to put this information onto a portable thumb drive for easy transport in an evacuation). The Special Care Organizational Record makes it easy to collect and organize all of the medical information for your family member.
  • Plan ahead, as well as you can, where you will go, and consider how well that place can accommodate your family member. Take everything into consideration: sleeping arrangements, dietary needs, the overall noise or activity level there, etc.
  • Do a family assessment. Figure out ahead of time what you will need help with and what you can do on your own. Are you likely to need help with transportation? Could loss of power be a serious issue for your family member? Reach out to your installation Exceptional Family Member Program Family Support personnel to see if they offer resources or information for evacuating with a family member with special needs.
  • For family members with special dietary needs, make sure you travel with the foods they require (e.g., liquid dietary supplements).
  • If your family member has a service animal, plan to bring food, water, license, tags and other supplies for the animal.
  • For those who receive life-sustaining medical treatment (dialysis, etc.), identify more than one facility that can provide it and factor the location into your evacuation plan.
  • For more information, visit Military OneSource, Ready.gov, or the Federal Emergency Management Agency website.
  • Be sure to communicate your evacuation plans to your unit and to another friend or family member.


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