Extra-Special Preparation Required for Extra-Special Community During Emergency Situations

Public Health & Safety

Leaving home on a moment’s notice can be stressful for anyone. Imagine the confusion and chaos an elderly friend or special needs neighbor might experience during a weather emergency or evacuation. Would they understand what was happening? Remember to pack medication, eyeglasses, hearing aids or other important supplies? Would they know who to call for help?

To alleviate that bleak scenario, caregivers should strive to become survivalists and follow the Boy Scout motto: Be prepared!

Seniors and special needs residents require an extra layer of care, especially during a hurricane, flood or tornado. Long before a storm threatens, it’s important to craft an easy-to-understand action plan that works for a family’s unique needs. This preparation will help ensure the safety of those who may need it most.

Fortunately, resources are vast. The Orange County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) System is designed to provide care for those with special needs.  Residents needing transport or suffering health conditions that require skilled medical help during an evacuation are urged to register through Orange County’s Special Needs Program, so they are flagged in the system. Once a resident is registered, the team determines the level of assistance needed based on either a functional need or a daily medical need. Protected by the Health Insurance Portability Accountability Act (HIPPA), this information helps responders swiftly assist when disaster strikes.

Follow these tips for a seamless and safe evacuation:

  • Tune into local television and radio stations for updates on open shelters. Orange County offers three special needs shelters with food, cots, wheelchairs, medication, oxygen, medical supplies, and an onsite nurse.
  • Call 311 to request special needs sheltering or transportation.
  • Flip porch lights on before evacuating to help responders determine remaining power outages following a storm.
  • Pack personal identification, emergency contact information, insurance cards, banking documents, daily prescriptions and medications, plus medical supplies such as walkers, portable oxygen, etc.
  • Share a house key and your evacuation plan with a trusting neighbor or family.
  • Remember to bring a change of clothes, blankets, pillows and folding chair.
  • Occupy time with books, puzzles and a charged mobile phone or tablet.
  • Secure a three-day supply of favorite non-perishable food items and water.
  • Download the FEMA and OCFL Alert apps chock full of life-saving information during emergencies.

Once the storm has passed the Orange County Fire Rescue Department will survey registered evacuees’ homes to ensure a safe return home via ACCESS LYNX transportation.

There’s no time like the present to build an emergency plan to safeguard loved ones challenged with medical, physical or cognitive disabilities.

For more information on how to prepare for a hurricane, visit www.ocfl.net/storm. Check often for ongoing updates on other hurricane preparedness tools.

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