Emergency Preparedness

Tools to create your own crisis-response plan

Table of Contents

Emergency preparedness refers to the things you do to be safe before, during, and after a natural disaster or other emergency. During hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, winter storms, and other natural disasters, you may need to survive on your own for a length of time without electricity, clean water, or access to transportation and food. To stay safe, preparing for emergencies is crucial.

The information on this webpage includes resources to help people with disabilities and their families prepare for emergencies. We’ve also included strategies to advocate for Texans with disabilities to have access to emergency information that is responsive to their needs.

Planning Ahead

Preparing for emergencies before they happen can make a big difference in how quickly you recover while keeping you and your family as safe and healthy as possible. The article “Are We Truly Prepared for Emergencies?” covers important things to consider when preparing for emergencies. The article is co-authored by Dr. Beth Stalvey, TCDD executive director, and Dr. Christin Bradley, regional disability integration advisor at the Region 6 Recovery Office of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Being prepared for an emergency includes having your own food, water, and other supplies. An emergency supply kit is a collection of basic items you might need during an emergency. Ready.gov, a website created by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, has a checklist you can use to build your emergency supply kit with important items you might need.

Staying Safe in Hurricanes

In Texas, hurricanes are most likely to happen between June and November. Hurricanes can cause major damage to communities from storm surges, high winds, and flooding. While the most significant impacts occur in coastal areas, hurricanes can also cause damage and emergency situations in areas further inland.

Since the route and strength of hurricanes can be difficult to predict, it’s important for people with disabilities to prepare as early as possible. Here are some resources that can help:

Staying Safe in Winter Storms

During extremely cold weather and winter storms, staying warm and safe can be a challenge. Winter storms can bring cold temperatures, power failures, loss of communication services, and icy roads. The following resources can help you prepare for extreme weather and stay safe during a storm.

The Texas Governor’s Office has a list of winter weather resources, including information about FEMA disaster assistance, state warming centers, insurance assistance, and how you can get involved to help Texans in need.

DRTx has a webpage with Winter Preparedness Tips for Texans with Disabilities.

The CDC has resources on how to prepare and stay safe, including materials and information in Spanish:

Taking Action to Advocate and Help

During Winter Storm Uri in February 2021, many Texans with disabilities were forced to live without needed support; risk dangerous travel conditions to reach hospital emergency rooms to access power for essential medical equipment; and overcome other obstacles. The impact of the storm and its aftermath were reminders of an ongoing situation in our state: Texas needs to improve its emergency preparedness and response for people with disabilities.

TCDD’s priority is to ensure equal access and proactive inclusion for Texans with disabilities in all community resources designed to maintain and improve individual and public health and safety, particularly during public health emergencies and natural disasters. Texans with disabilities deserve emergency planning that is responsive to their needs.

Here are some ways you can help:

Contact your legislators
Find information about districts and members of the Texas Legislature, the State Board of Education, and the Texas Congressional delegation at Texas Legislature Online: Who Represents Me?.

Connect with the Public Utilities Commission
The Public Utilities Commission of Texas has a program for people who rely on electric devices to sustain life. The program lets people register to receive notifications and possible protections from power interruptions or disconnections. If you or someone you live with could benefit from this program, you should first apply for chronic or critical care status. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Download the Application for Chronic Condition or Critical Care Residential Customer Status (PDF, 4 pages, 202 KB). Also available in Spanish: Aplicación para la Condición Crónica o Cuidado de Cliente Residencial con Estatus Crítico (PDF, 4 pages, 111 KB).
  2. Complete your section of the application and bring it to your doctor, who will then complete their section and send it to your utility company.
  3. After your doctor sends the application, your utility company will confirm your chronic or critical care status.

Register for the State of Texas Emergency Assistance Registry
The State of Texas Emergency Assistance Registry (STEAR) is a free registry that provides local emergency planners and emergency responders with additional information on needs in the community.

You should register for STEAR if you are:

  • a person with a disability;
  • a person with limited mobility;
  • a person with a communication barrier; or
  • a person who needs additional medical assistance, transportation assistance, or personal-care assistance during an emergency event.

Advocate and support locally
Contact your local media outlets and share your experience. Advocate for people with disabilities in your networks and on social media. Support nonprofit organizations serving Texans with disabilities by donating or volunteering. Know your neighbors and offer help to those in need.

Creating emergency preparedness plans for people with disabilities and their families must be a priority. People with disabilities and their families must be involved in planning and implementing first responder and relief worker training that addresses the needs of people with disabilities in an emergency. These needs include finding accessible transportation; following a person’s existing emergency preparedness plan; and understanding the importance of keeping families and other supports, including service animals, together during an evacuation or relocation process.

The following principles are integral to the health and safety of people with disabilities during an emergency:

  • People with disabilities and families must be able to create, review, and regularly revise (at least annually) their emergency preparedness plans, including “shelter in place” plans, with support from long-term services and support programs when appropriate.
  • Personal and medical information included in an emergency preparedness plan or provided to any registry system or service provider must be kept confidential.
  • People with disabilities and families must be able to participate in developing local, regional, and state emergency preparedness plans, including “shelter in place” plans, that are responsive to the needs and preferences of people with disabilities.
  • People with disabilities and their families must be able to participate in developing training for first responders and relief workers on the needs of people with disabilities during and after an emergency, including information on invisible disabilities, self-determination, and preserving support networks.
  • Emergency preparedness information and planning resources must be available to everyone in plain and clear language that is fully accessible for people with disabilities.

Policymakers and all who work in public service must consider the disproportionate impact of emergencies on Texans with disabilities and develop more inclusive and equitable emergency response policies and protocols. Whether it is COVID-19 vaccine distribution, prioritized aid for people with disabilities who depend on electricity to power their health equipment, or mobility services to transport Texans with disabilities to warming centers and emergency shelters — our leaders must prioritize the health and safety of people most in need.

Additional Resources

Since natural disasters and other emergency situations can happen at any time, here are some additional resources you can use to prepare yourself:

Know about the disaster hotline
The Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies operates a disaster hotline, which you can contact any time at 1-800-626-4959.

Locate emergency supplies and shelters
Visit the Texas Division of Emergency Management website and select your region and county to find local information on where to find potable water, warming centers, and shelters.

Find community resources
Search Texas A&M University’s Directory of Community Resources for People with Disabilities to find resources and organizations by category and location, developed as part of Project REDD (Research and Education on Disability and Disaster).

You can also access ASL videos that provide information on the FEMA registration process:

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