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Disasters and pandemics are happening more frequently and sometimes without any warning. The impacts of emergency events on communities are devastating but even more so for those with disabilities and older adults. Preparedness is everyone’s duty. A recent survey by the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers of people with disabilities found that only 1 in 4 have a plan in the event of a disaster. Everyone should plan and prepare for disasters now because an emergency response may not come for you when you need it most.

From past disasters including hurricanes, wildfire, and utility Public Safety Power Shut-off events, we know that people with disabilities are dis-proportionally impacted by these events. According to the National Council on Disability, people with disabilities are two to four times more likely to be injured or die in a disaster. They are also more likely to encounter barriers accessing disaster services including emergency notification, evacuation, sheltering, throughout long-term recovery, and have increased risk of institutionalization during and after disasters.

While we all must plan for the next disaster, such as a wildfire, there are additional considerations for planning for people with disabilities. What if you do not have transportation, how will you evacuate?  If you rely on assistive technology or durable medical equipment such as a wheelchair, walker, or oxygen machine, evacuating with that equipment is critical to maintaining health and well-being when sheltering. As well, evacuating with necessary medications or at least knowing what medications you take, can greatly reduce stress and can prevent exacerbation of health conditions.

We know that there are many seniors and people with disabilities that are isolated due to a lack of social supports or due to living in our rural area and being geographically isolated. One of the best things we can do as a community is to connect with one-another and to reach out so that we have a network of support during a disaster. This is where the recommendations of finding 5-trusted emergency allies is so important. If you cannot find 5 trusted allies, at least start with one or two and build from there. These are your family members, neighbors, friends, or people that you see on a regular basis, that you can share your plan with and check on each other during a Red Flag warning or disaster. Think about who lives in your neighborhood or that you know, that might need additional assistance during a disaster, and reach out to them to start the conversation.

What can you do to prepare?

If you need help making a disaster plan, call Brian at FREED at (530) 477-3333 Ex. 206 or email at