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Home Emergency Support Network: Emergency Planning for Seniors and People with Disabilities

Updated on November 8, 2015

An establishing support network is, to my mind, the most important step anyone, disabled or not, can take to be safe. Any support network is a group of people and organizations you can depend on to assist you in an emergency.

Your "emergency support network" are the people and businesses you would use infrequently for more "common" and "household" type emergencies. It would also include emergencies unique to where you live. For example, earthquakes and hurricanes don't turn up that much in Virginia. We have to worry about high winds and flooding. We don't evacuate to alternate locations very often.

You don't want to wait until your furnace goes out on a 20° day to find out which repair people will make a special effort to get you.

  • How will you stay warm?
  • Which of your friends have an accessible house?
  • Are there any motels with handicapped rooms nearby?
  • Do you have space heaters on hand? Do you know how to use them? Do you have fuel for them?

All utility companies in your area should know that you have a disability or special need that requires an immediate response to problems. For your own safety, don't assume that they are looking at the registry or their records.

Play the disability card. Tell them you have a special need. Call back if they don't show up. It's rarely necessary to get nasty over the telephone but you must stand up for yourself. Be courteous and polite for as long as you can.

Meet People

Meet with the folks at your local fire hall. Do they have a special program to keep track of people with disabilities or serious medical conditions? Drop off cookies occasionally. Contribute to the fund raiser and try to make it to the pancake day or fish fry.

I’m not saying that doing any of these things will earn you any special treatment but it never hurts for people in positions to help out to see you as a person and not just a wheelchair. (I do this when I’m in hospital as well: donuts for each shift at least once for every week I’m incarcerated.)

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No House Stickers

Locally, oxygen users are required to post notices outside their home where oxygen is being used. This alerts rescue workers to the fire hazard. Some areas may have other posting requirements.

Many years ago, our emergency services used stickers on house windows to notify rescue workers of a person with a disability or of children inside. Sadly, they gave up the program because it turned out to be almost impossible to maintain.

Families would move but not remove the stickers from their old houses. Children grew up but the sticker stayed. Instead, they felt that, in most cases, a thorough search of the premises following the correct procedure would yield a higher success rate with less danger to the rescue workers.

This wasn't in my budget.

Telephone Numbers

Your emergency support network should include the names and telephone numbers of

  • plumbers
  • roof repair companies
  • snow removal companies
  • mechanics
  • electricians
  • handyman neighbors

Also consider those friends and neighbors who would drop groceries off or check on you after a severe storm or during a heat wave. (These people may be different than those in your personal support network. You wouldn't be asking these people for personal care.)


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    • Georzetta profile imageAUTHOR

      Georzetta Ratcliffe 

      7 years ago from Pennsylvania

      You are so right about looking out for your animals and preparing to take care of them in an emergency. Many shelters won't allow you to bring your animals in unless they are certified companion animals.

      I know that leaving my pug would be like leaving a family member. Luckily, most household pets can survive for several days so long as food and water have been left out for them along with some blankets so they can stay warm.

    • Jpineiro profile image


      7 years ago

      This is a very useful and important Hub. I would like to add something that is also very important. If you are disabled or elderly, make sure that when you visit the local emergency and support personnel you inform them whether you have pets or not. This was a valuable lesson from Katrina because the authorities were not ready to rescue pets and found themselves trying to convince many elderly and disabled to abandon their homes without their pets during rescue operations. Good work keep it up!

    • Georzetta profile imageAUTHOR

      Georzetta Ratcliffe 

      7 years ago from Pennsylvania

      I'm glad you found it useful. Thanks for the lovely comments.

    • Amez profile image


      7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Great hug on staying prepaired as we stand before the tresh hold of our golden years and for sure with those having to manage thier disabilities. I'm beginning to have allot of appreciation for those that help me to think ahead especially as I approach 65. Thnks again. your hub earns 10 hugs for sure. Ed


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