Keep in mind:
- Never separate a person with a disability from his or her assistive aids: wheelchairs, canes, hearing aids, medications, special diet food, urinary supplies, etc.
- A person with a disability’s equipment may not be working after a disaster occurs, or it may be insufficient for emergency circumstances.
- A service animal, usually a dog, is an assistive aid used by people who are blind, deaf, have a mobility disability, and other kinds of disabilities. A disaster may temporarily confuse service animals and they may not be able to help their owners as effectively as before the disaster.
- Some individuals with emotional and developmental disabilities may be too unsettled to respond appropriately to instructions and directions, such as a public address announcement to evacuate a building. Some individuals with these disabilities may need to be in a quiet place for a while to regain their composure; others may even try to hide from rescue workers.
- Some individuals with significant mental or learning disabilities might not understand the significance of "Keep Out" signs and barricade tape.
- Consider your options and the risks of injuring yourself and others in an evacuation attempt. Do not make an emergency situation worse. Evacuation is difficult and uncomfortable for both the rescuers and people being assisted. Some people have conditions that can be aggravated or triggered if they are moved incorrectly. Remember that environmental conditions (smoke, debris, loss of electricity) will complicate evacuation efforts. Remember, emergency personnel have extensive training in evacuation procedures and the proper equipment for any kind of carrying or transfer.
People with Blindness or Visual Impairments
- Give verbal instructions to advise the individual about the safest route or direction using compass directions, estimated distances, and directional terms.
- DO NOT grasp a person who has a visual disability’s arm. Ask if he or she would like to hold onto your elbow as you exit, especially if there is debris or a crowd.
- Give other verbal instructions or information (i.e., elevators cannot be used), as appropriate to the circumstances.
People with Deafness or Hearing Loss
- Get the attention of a person who is deaf or hard of hearing by turning on and off a light or, if necessary, touch and eye contact. Clearly state the problem. Gestures and pointing are helpful, but be prepared to write a brief statement if the person does not appear to understand the information you are communicating.
- Offer written or visual instructions to advise the individual of the safest route or direction by pointing toward exits or evacuation maps.
People with physical disabilities
- Do not attempt to evacuate a person in a wheelchair down a stairwell, wait for trained emergency response personnel.
- Assist the person to a safe location and seek help.