Patient Preparedness: An Emergency Plan

In an impending emergency (power outage, flooding, fire) it is essential to have a safety plan in mind, but this is crucial for people with disabilities if they have needs for medication or equipment which is outside the normal range of availability. 

It’s important for another reason, as well: a person dealing with an emergency from a proactive stance will always have the advantage, mentally and physically, over the situation, and will be better equipped to ‘get ahead of it’ in the event that becomes necessary.

Three things will make an emergency less chaotic: supplies, a support system, and an evacuation plan.


Supplies are often essential, and these should be in a state of constant preparedness. A few things tucked away in a bag in the hall closet will greatly diminish the panic in a crisis.An emergency bag should include at least a few days worth of supplies and medication along with instructions for these medications and the subscriber/provider’s name and number.  Generally, this is a patient’s general practitioner: having that name and number handy is vital for any questions, or if the house is uninhabitable, there would be a way to get an emergency prescription so the patient will not miss any doses of medication.  If the person needs other daily supplies (incontinence supplies, spare clothing, or other medical items for their immediate care) also pack spares of this in the bag.  Ideally, this bag will carry essentials to last the person with a disability for at least a day without containing everything in the medicine cabinet.  


If one has a cell phone, make sure that and a spare charger is included in the supply bag.  Most clinics and pharmacies use web-based sites to interact with their patients in the event an evacuation is extended.

The local fire department is a plethora of resources to prepare for a crisis for those with mobility issues.

The local fire department is a plethora of resources to prepare for a crisis for those with mobility issues.

Also, watch weather reports and alarms.  Cell phones will now also alarm if bad weather is approaching, so a person with compromised mobility can make a decision ahead of time on the best means of staying safe.  If travel may be necessary, a person with special needs should be prepared ahead of time to get to a safe zone. 

A support network

In the event of an evacuation, consider the time demands of the person with a disability.  A person with a prosthetic who is still learning to walk will not require as much time as a nonambulatory person with a wheelchair which has to be loaded and unloaded. There should be an ongoing, prearranged agreement with people who are willing and able to assist with evacuation measures. The location of the safe zone is also crucial: if that person is in a wheelchair a friend’s house with stairs is an unsuitable option. 

Firefighters deal with this kind of situation all the time. Your local fire department can help to create a plan if details prove to be a struggle. Ask them for suggestions, since they’re well-connected with local resources and know the location of emergency centers.

Emergency plan preparedness is part of a proactive patient’s self-care and management. Supplies, communication, and support will make a crucial difference in the successful implementation of a safety plan during an emergency, should it ever become necessary.

If you are looking for occupational or physical therapy, vestibular rehab, wheelchair training, learning to walk, unweighting, or other services in the Phoenix area, please call Touchstone Rehabilitation at 602-277-1073