A First Responder Gives Advice on Prepping for Those with Special Needs

Basic preparedness guidelines apply to all of us. But what about prepping for those with special needs, such as the disabled or elderly? What about medications, wheelchairs, a service dog, etc.? Since it’s hard to get specific for each and every situation, I sought out some guiding principles from a First Responder who has recently been on the front lines providing relief in Sandy’s aftermath.


My show guest and his company – Paul Faust of www.1800prepare.com was my guest yesterday on DestinySurvival Radio. He’s a cofounder and COO of the company and has an extensive background in sales and business development. He’s also served a number of years as a volunteer firefighter in New York, where he lives outside of New York City.

Paul founded 1800Prepare with Gregg Hamerschlag, who’s also a First Responder. They have a passion to make preparedness more of a normal part of our lives. It doesn’t have to be a big deal. Paul says he’s an everyday kind of guy who wants you and me to be prepared for those everyday kinds of things that happen. So the two of them combined First Responder experience with business experience to form the company.

Time – This is our greatest preparedness asset according to Paul. If we use it wisely to get prepared, we can be better prepared to face whatever comes our way. But remember everything doesn’t have to be done all at once.

A person with a disability needs to take the usual preparedness steps, but those steps need to be taken to a higher level. For example, what about batteries for an electric wheelchair? Is there a way to evacuate when necessary? If you’re disabled, what are you going to need in your particular situation? Think about it now.

Community – Do you know your neighbors? Apartment building manager? Coworkers? Nurse or care agent? Solicit their help ahead of time and extend your “preparedness envelope” to those others. Have a backup person in mind to help with administering meds, operating devices or meeting your other needs in case your first choice for help is unavailable.

Practice – There’s no time like the present to practice with a friend or neighbor. Trying to administer oxygen shouldn’t be done for the first time during an emergency. Also, rehearse the instructions or directions you’ll give to others who will be helping you.

Be Proactive – Take charge. Be your own First Responder. Don’t assume someone will come to help you in a crisis. This is true whether you’re disabled or not. There aren’t enough First Responders to get to everyone. And, as was the case with Sandy, roads and driveways may be obstructed by fallen trees, keeping First Responders from getting to you.

Among the people you know, find out who is a doctor, a nurse, an electrician, roofer, etc. Who can help you or be of help to others?

Know the resources available to you. Do the fire department, EMT’s or other service providers know you have special needs? Does a neighbor know to call or come by to check on you? Do you have a way to get to a shelter or a center to get warm or cool, depending on the weather?

Plan – That’s what this is all about. Be ready to heed the warnings, especially if you’re asked to evacuate. Have supplies set aside ahead of time, such as foods, medications, etc.

Money matters – Buy supplies and groceries you need in small quantities ahead of time. You can get many things inexpensively without stretching the budget too much. But do this over a period of time.

Again, that’s good advice for any of us.

Pride – Get over it. Ask for help. We all need it at times. Don’t be afraid to ask for assistance. People are more than willing to give it, if they know you have the need.

Face fear – This is where practice comes into place. Whether you’re practicing something as simple as lighting a match or finding your way to the nearest exit in your building, do it now. Whatever you can do now to set aside your fears will help you be prepared all the better when the real emergency comes.

I would add this. Go beyond your comfort zone and try new things. You’re capable of more than you realize now.

Granted, it’s not possible to be prepared for everything, but if you consider the kinds of things that canhappen where you live, and plan ahead, you should be in good shape for most things.

Paul and I talked about other matters, such as how to have hot water in a pinch, how to stay warm (or cool when needed), communication and more. I invite you to hear my whole interview with Paul Faust by listening to DestinySurvival Radio for January 17, 2013. Also, www.1800prepare.com has a set of articles under the heading “Special Needs & Disabilities” in their Information and Advice section. Click the Emergency Preparedness Info tab to find the articles.

Do you have any tips on making life easier during a crisis for those with special needs? If you’re someone with special needs, what would you like for others to know about your situation during an emergency? Share your thoughts in a comment below.


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