Now let’s talk about PLANS.
First. This first bit is general stuff for any family. Now, while there is no emergency, think through four places you can go and meet up with others in your family. Think of one location in your neighborhood. Another location outside of your neighborhood but in your town. Another location outside of your town/vicinity but in your state. And another location outside your state. Friends’ or family members’ houses are ideal, but nearly any place will work. Obviously, you will want to choose locations based on how they may be able to accommodate your special needs. Planning to meet up at Aunt Susie’s place isn’t a great plan if your family member uses a wheelchair if Aunt Susie lives in a 5th floor walkup apartment.
Communicate all of these places with everyone in your family. In the event there is an emergency and you are unable to communicate with others in your family, you just follow the plan. If the emergency affects just your house, you know to meet up at your neighborhood spot. If the emergency affects your neighborhood, you know to meet up at your town spot. If the emergency is more widespread, you meet up at one of the other locations.
Now, here’s the special needs part. Think through ANY special considerations involving your special needs family member. What if your family member uses a wheelchair, but the family member who isn’t at home has the accessible van? What if you anticipate that your family member would melt down if an evacuation were necessary? What if your family member has severe anxiety about leaving the house? How will you handle these things? Have a plan NOW so you don’t have to come up with one on the fly.
Bonus points: write down these plans and put them in your binder.
Second. Communications. In many emergencies, local communications can quickly become overwhelmed. But sometimes, though you can’t connect a call across town, you can still call out of your area. Establish a friend or family member who doesn’t live in your area who can serve as a communications hub for your family. Then have everyone MEMORIZE this number. Also: write it in your binder.
Third. Predicted Emergencies. In the event of any sort of predicted emergency (hurricane, civil unrest, major ice storm), remember that your family is not like other families. Your family has special considerations. Think through those special considerations NOW.
For example, in my family, if there was a major ice storm predicted, or if we lived in an area expecting flooding, I’d need to check to make sure we have enough medication on-hand and, if not, contact the pharmacy and ask them to work it out with the insurance company to let us refill early just in case.
When Teddy was on dialysis, we knew we’d need to report to the hospital (2 hours away) in the event of any major power loss, which might have meant that we’d plan to travel sooner rather than later if a major winter storm was predicted.
If your special needs family member is dependent upon electricity to survive, maybe you need to think about installing a generator (and keeping sufficient fuel safely stored). Or perhaps you need to consider evacuating your home to someplace with more stable power in advance of any predicted emergency. (For example, many families in Orlando move into Disney hotels during hurricanes.)
Sometimes, the best course of action for a special needs family is to get out of dodge sooner rather than later. This is a VERY tough call to make, but if you have some place you can go, and you can get there without too much hassle, it might just be best to get out before the emergency hits.
Look at Harvey – I absolutely understand why people didn’t evacuate, and I think that, all things considered, it was the best decision for most people, even though it didn’t work out so great in retrospect. But families with special considerations might have decided to leave a few days in advance of the storm – just in case. Is this always going to be possible? No. But if it is possible… maybe it’s best to go.
I read a story about having to rescue several dozen pediatric dialysis patients from their homes for dialysis before not getting dialysis killed any of them – the national guard and coast guard helicoptered them to the hospital. I’ve had friends get stuck at home in snow and ice storms and start to panic about getting their kids dialysis. And I get it – I’m not judging those families, at all. I can’t say I’d have done anything different (of course, we were already IN the hospital for the vast majority of Teddy’s days on dialysis…). Making the decision to leave is HARD, and it seems SO silly when nobody else is leaving, and when there may not even be a storm, and even if there is, it probably won’t be that bad. But, if possible, getting out early might be the easiest course of action when it all comes down to it.
I’d sure as heck rather be laughing at my very cautious self while spending a few days with an out of town friend than be stuck in my home in a panic about my special needs family member.