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Dealing with the Dark: How Individuals With Disabilities Can Prepare for a Power Outage


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If you live in Western New York, you know power outages are a way of life. While these can be an inconvenience for anyone, for individuals with disabilities, they can present additional dangers and challenges, especially during the winter months. From mobility issues to reliance on medical devices, being prepared for a power outage is not just a matter of convenience—it's a necessity.


Keep reading for practical tips and considerations to ensure you and your loved ones will be safe during a power outage.



Emergency Kit:


Essential for anyone during a power outage is a well-stocked emergency kit. Consider including the following and make sure it is tailored to YOUR specific needs:


  • Medical Supplies: Ensure an ample supply of your medications, medical equipment, and printed copies of any necessary medical documents.

  • Assistive Devices: Pack extra batteries for hearing aids, communication devices, or any other assistive technology.

  • Mobility Aids: If applicable, have a lightweight, non-powered, portable wheelchair or mobility aid available.

  • Personal Care Items: Include hygiene products, comfortable clothing, and any specialized items you need for personal care.

  • Other supplies to consider: bottled water, non-perishable food, flashlights with extra batteries, hand sanitizer, and hats and gloves as well as blankets and clothing for the cold.



Communication Plan:


Develop a plan to remain in communication during a power outage. Your plan should include:


  • Emergency Contacts: Keep a printed list of emergency contacts, including family, friends, and healthcare providers.

  • Communication Devices: Have a fully charged cell phone and a backup power source, such as a portable charger. Conserve battery life as much as possible.

  • Backup Communication Methods: For those with speech or hearing impairments, consider non-verbal communication tools such as a laminated communication board or text messaging.



Medical Considerations:


For those with medical conditions or disabilities requiring constant attention, additional considerations must be taken into account:


  • Generator or Backup Power Source: Consider a backup power source, such as a generator, to ensure continuous power for essential medical devices. Make sure you have someone to help get it running in the event that you cannot.

  • Notify Emergency Services: If you rely on life-sustaining equipment, register with your local utility company and emergency services to receive priority assistance during power outages.



Community Support:


You may not be able to rely on your aide staff during a power outage, so building a support network within the community is invaluable during power outages:


  • Neighbors and Friends: Inform neighbors and friends about your specific needs and establish a mutual support system.

  • Community Resources: Research local organizations and community services that can provide assistance during emergencies.



Evacuation Plan:


Hopefully the power returns within a few hours or a day, but in the event that a power outage turns into a crisis requiring evacuation, you should have an evacuation plan. This plan should include:


  • Accessible Routes: Identify accessible routes for evacuation, considering mobility challenges and the availability of accessible transportation.

  • Emergency Transportation: Know the local resources for accessible transportation in case evacuation is necessary.

  • Shelter Accessibility: Research and make a list of accessible shelters in the area.



Preparation is Key


Power outages can be challenging for anyone, but with careful planning, individuals with disabilities can navigate these situations with confidence. By creating a personalized emergency kit, establishing effective communication and evacuation plans, addressing medical considerations, and building a community support network, individuals with disabilities can enhance their resilience in the face of unexpected power disruptions.

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