Earthquake Tips for People With Disabilities

Developed and Distributed By Independent Living Resource Center San Francisco
70 10th Street, San Francisco, CA 94103, 415-863-0581, TTY 415-863-1367, FAX 415-863-1290
In cooperation with June Kailes, Disability Consultant
through a grant from The American Red Cross Northern California Disaster Preparedness Network

This fact sheet is designed to provide a checklist for activities for People with Disabilities to improve your emergency preparedness in an earthquake. It is designed to be used in conjunction with regular American Red Cross preparedness information and Independent Living Resource Center San Francisco's EARTHQUAKE TIPS FOR PEOPLE WITH A SPECIFIC DISABILITY (i.e., Mobility, Visual, Communication, Cognitive, Psychiatric, Hearing, etc.), TIPS FOR COLLECTING EMERGENCY DOCUMENTS, and TIPS FOR CREATING AN EMERGENCY HEALTH INFORMATION CARD. Without all four tip sheets, you do not have all the information you need to be prepared. Preparation may seem like a lot of work. It is. Preparing does take time and effort. So do a little at a time, as your energy and budget permit. The important thing is to start preparing. The more you do, the more confident you will be that you can protect yourself, your family, and your belongings.

Establish a Personal Support Network

A personal support network is made up individuals who will check with you in an emergency to ensure you are O.K. and to give assistance if needed. This network can consist of friends, roommates, family members, relatives, personal attendants, co-workers and neighbors.

Some people rely on personal assistance services (attendants). This type of assistance may not be available after a major quake. Therefore it is vital that your personal support network consist of different people than those who are your personal attendants. If you employ a personal attendant or use the services of a home health agency or other type of in home service, discuss with these people a plan for what you will do in case of an emergency. How will you get along in an emergency for as long as 7 days? A critical element to consider in your emergency planning is the establishment of a personal support network.

Even if you do not use a personal attendant, it is important to consider having a personal support network to assist you in coping with an emergency. Do not depend on any one person. Work out support relationships with several individuals. Identify a minimum of three people at each location where you regularly spend a significant part of your week: job, home, school, volunteer site, etc.


In spite of your best planning, sometimes a personal support network must be created on the spot. For example you may find yourself in a shelter and needing to assemble help for immediate assistance. Think about what you will need, how you want it done and what kind of person you would select.

Seven Important Items to Discuss, Give to and Practice with Your Personal Support Network:



When staying in hotels/motels identify yourself to registration desk staff as a person who will need assistance in an emergency and state the type of assistance you may need.

Health Card

Emergency Contact List

Emergency Documents

(includes important information typically needed after a disaster).

Additional Tip Sheets are available to cover above topics in more detail.

Conduct an "Ability Self -Assessment"

Evaluate your capabilities, limitations and needs, as well as your surroundings to determine what type of help you will need in an emergency.

1 . Will you be able to independently shut off the necessary utilities (gas, water, electricity)?

2. Can you operate a fire extinguisher?

3. Will you be able to carry your evacuation kit?

4. Have you moved or secured large objects that might block your escape path?

5. Write instructions for the following (keep a copy with you and share a copy with your personal support network):

a. How to turn off utilities; color-code or label these for quick identification.

b. How to operate and safely move your essential equipment. Consider attaching simple to read and understand instructions to
your equipment.

c. How to safely transport you if you need to be carried, and include any areas of vulnerability.

d. How to provide personal assistance services.

e. How Will You Evacuate. Be aware of barriers and possible hazards to a clear path of exit. Change what you are able to change (clear obstacles from aisles; secure large, heavy items such as bookcases that may fall to block your path). Plan alternate exit paths.

Communication: Practice Assertiveness Skills

Take charge and practice how to quickly explain to people how to move your mobility aids or how to move you safely and rapidly. Be prepared to give clear, specific and concise instructions and directions to rescue personnel, i.e., “take my oxygen tank,” “take my wheelchair,” “take my gamma globulin from the freezer,” “take my insulin from the refrigerator,” “take my communication device from under the bed.” Practice giving these instructions with the least amount of words in the least amount of time. For example: the traditional “fire fighter's carry” may be hazardous for some people with some respiratory weakness. You need to be able to give brief instructions regarding how to move you.

Be prepared to request an accommodation from disaster personnel. For example, if you are unable to wait in long lines for extended periods of time, for such items as water, food, and disaster relief applications, practice clearly and concisely explaining why you cannot wait in the line.


Carry-On/Carry-With-You Supplies
Supplies to Keep with You at All Times

Packing/Container suggestions: a fanny pack, back pack or drawstring bag which can be hung from a wheelchair, scooter or other assistive device.

1. Emergency Health Information Card.

2. Instructions on personal assistance needs and how best to provide them.

3. Copy of Emergency Documents.

4. Essential medications/copies of prescriptions (at least a week's supply).

5. Flashlight on key ring.

6. Signaling device (whistle, beeper, bell, screecher).

7. Small battery-operated radio and extra batteries

Disability-Related Supplies to
Add to Regular Emergency Kits

Store supplies in areas you anticipate will be easy to reach after a quake.

Others may be able to share traditional emergency supplies, but you need these store on top and in separate labeled bag! If you have to leave something behind, make sure you get these.

Plan for enough disability-related supplies for up to two weeks (medication syringes, colostomy, respiratory, catheter, padding, distilled water, etc.). If you have a respiratory, cardiac or multiple chemical sensitivities condition, store towels, masks, industrial respirators or other supplies you can use to filter your air supply. Do not expect shelters or first aid stations to meet your supply needs. In an emergency supplies will be limited.

If you are unable to afford extra supplies consider contacting one of the many disability-specific organizations such as the Multiple Sclerosis Society, Arthritis Foundation, United Cerebral Palsy Association, etc. These organizations may be able to assist you in gathering extra low cost or no cost emergency supplies or medications.



It is best if you are able to maintain at least a 7 to 14 day supply of essential medications (heart, blood pressure, birth control, diabetic, psychiatric orphan drugs, etc.) and keep this supply with you at all times. If this is not possible, even maintaining a three day supply would be extremely helpful.

Work with your doctor(s) to obtain an extra supply of medications, as well as extra copies of prescriptions. Ask if it would be safe to go without one dosage periodically, until an adequate supply has been accumulated? Make several copies of your prescriptions and put one copy in each of your survival kits, car kit, wallet, with your Emergency Documents and your evacuation plan.

Ask your provider or pharmacist about the shelf life and storage temperature sensitivities of your medication. Ask how often you should rotate stored medication to ensure that the effectiveness of the medication does not weaken due to excess storage time. If you are on medications which are administered to you by a clinic or hospital (such as methadone, or chemo or radiation therapy) ask your provider how you should plan for a 3 - 14 day disruption.

If you are a smoker, be aware that smoking will not be allowed in shelters. If getting to an outside smoking area may be difficult for you, consider stocking your evacuation kit with nicotine gum or patches available by prescriptions.

Life in cramped, unheated shelters can increase the chances of pneumonia, influenza and colds. therefore, equip your kits with any vitamins or medications you take to guard against getting sick and to cope with being sick.

Equipment and Assistive Devices

Keep important equipment and assistive devices in a consistent, convenient and secured place, so
you can quickly and easily locate them after the shaking. Make sure these items such as teeth, hearing aids, prosthesis, mobility aid, cane, crutches, walker, respirator, service animal harness, augmentative communication device or electronic communicator, artificial larynx, wheelchair, sanitary aids, batteries, eye glasses, contacts including cleaning solutions, etc., are secured. For example: keep hearing aid, eye glasses, etc., in a container by bedside which is attached to night stand or bed post using string or velcro, oxygen tank attached to the wall, wheelchair locked and close to bed. This helps prevent them from falling, flying or rolling away during a quake.

If you use a laptop computer as a means of communication, consider purchasing a power converter. A power converter allows most laptops (1 2 volts or less) to run from a cigarette lighter on the dashboard of a vehicle.




Establish a Personal Support Network.

Customize an Emergency Health Information Card.

Keep copies in wallet, purse and emergency supply kits.

Complete an Emergency Contact List (see Earthquake Tips for Collecting Emergency Documents).

Collect Emergency Documents (see Earthquake Tips For Collecting Emergency Documents).

Store Emergency Documents in emergency supply kits, wallet, safe deposit box and give copies to personal support network and out of area contact (see Earthquake Tips for Collecting Emergency Documents).

Conduct an Ability Self-Assessment.

Collect Carry With You Supplies to keep with you at all times.

Collect Disability-Related Supplies for emergency kits.

Maintain a seven day supply of Essential Medications.

Keep important Equipment and Assistive Devices in consistent, convenient and secured place.

Write Out Instructions for items you will need help with in an emergency.

If you use a Service Animal (see Earthquake Tips for Service Animal and Pet Owners).

See Additional Tip Sheets as appropriate (i.e., Health
Cards, Emergency Documents; People with Visual
Disabilities, Deaf or Hard of Hearing, Communication and Speech Related Disabilities, Psychiatric Disabilities, Developmental or Cognitive Disabilities, Mobility Disabilities, Multiple Chemical Sensitivities, People Who Use Life Support Systems, and Service Animals.