Prepare Your Special Needs and Elderly Family

Make plans to care for those that may need your help most.

Remember to plan for elderly family members or those with disabilities or other special needs, particularly if they live alone. Here are some simple steps to ensure that those you care about won’t be left behind in an emergency:

  • Find out if there’s a support network of people who can help in an emergency. If no official network exists, create an informal group of trusted individuals who can help your family member get to safety.
  • Tell this group where your family member’s emergency supplies, including a go-bag, are kept, so they’ll know what to grab, quickly.
  • Give one trusted group member a key to your family member’s home.
  • Contact your city or county government’s emergency information management office or fire department. Many local offices keep lists of people with disabilities so they can be located quickly in a sudden emergency.
  • If necessary, make sure your family member wears his or her medical-alert tags or bracelets at all times.
  • If your family member is dependent on dialysis or other life-sustaining care, know the location and availability of more than one treatment facility.
    • Encourage him or her to set up electronic payments for federal benefit recipients. Keep in mind an emergency can disrupt mail service for days or even weeks. For those who depend on the mail for their Social Security benefits, a difficult situation can become worse if they are evacuated or lose their mail service—as 85,000 check recipients learned after Hurricane Katrina. The U.S. Department of the Treasury recommends two safer ways to get federal benefits:
    • Direct deposit to a checking or savings account. Federal benefit recipients can sign up by calling (800) 333-1795 or at
    • The Direct Express® prepaid debit card is designed as a safe and easy alternative to paper checks for people who don’t have a bank account. Sign up is easy—call toll-free at (877) 212-9991 or sign up online at

Other essentials for family members with disabilities include:

  • Prescription medicines, list of medications including dosage, list of any allergies
  • Extra eyeglasses and hearing-aid batteries
  • Extra wheelchair batteries and oxygen
  • Keep a list of the style and serial number of medical devices
  • Medical insurance and Medicare cards
  • List of doctors, relatives or friends who should be notified if you are hurt

For more information go to

Other Special Needs:

For family members and others in the community with special needs, planning for an emergency is even more crucial.

  • Visually impaired — They may be hesitant to leave familiar surroundings. Despite training, a guide dog could become confused or disoriented during a disaster. Make sure someone will lead your family member to safety.
  • Special dietary needs — They should take special precautions to have an adequate food supply for at least two to three days.
  • Specific medical conditions — Wear a bracelet, if necessary, alerting medical personnel to any medical conditions, especially if they are life-threatening.
  • People with intellectual disabilities — They may become particularly disoriented during an emergency or hesitant to leave their familiar surroundings. Assign someone to be a special helper to get them out of harm’s way and to a safe place; also, practice evacuation drills regularly, like how to get out of a house fire or what to do during an earthquake, so the unknown won’t be quite so unfamiliar—and scary.
  • Non-English speaking — Get them in touch with community and cultural groups that can provide helpful information and help them prepare for an emergency. These groups also may connect them to other community members who have gotten prepared and can provide further assistance.