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Mobility

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Safety Begins at Home: Emergency Escape Plan for
Loved Ones with Mobility Challenges
By Jennifer Wilson, Staff Writer

(Page 1 of 3)

Children are usually taught about fire safety and disaster preparedness in school. Experts in the field, such as firefighters, teach through demonstrating how a family should safely and quickly evacuate their house during a fire, or how to seek shelter during a natural disaster, like a tornado or hurricane. The children are then encouraged to take the information they have learned and share it among their family members at home. By practicing in-home fire and shelter drills enough times, a family can become fairly secure with the fact that everyone will know a way of getting out of the house or taking shelter.

However, if you’re among America’s 54 million caregivers, knowing how to evacuate a loved one or how a loved one can take shelter during an emergency may not be as easy as just stepping out a door, or crawling out a window, especially if your loved one has mobility challenges and physical issues. Not only do you have to consider how you yourself will get out of the house during an emergency, but how will you get to your loved one to make sure they get out? How realistic is it for you to assume that your loved one will be able to assist themselves in order to evacuate the house or to take shelter some place other than their room? These are just a few of the questions that a caregiver must sit down and think through in order to arrive at a much-needed safety plan for their loved one. Once a safety plan has been created, it is wise to rehearse it, making sure that there are no other problems that might be incurred during an emergency. It’s also a good idea to discuss a finalized evacuation plan with other family members who may not live with you, as well as with neighbors, friends, and any other personal care attendants that may be a part of the in-home caregiving team. Talk about the dangers of fire, severe weather, earthquakes and other emergencies. This way, people other than the caregiver will know where to locate a loved one in a timely manner and assist with anything they may need at that moment, should their caregiver not be able to do so.

When devising your in-home, emergency preparedness plan, a good resource to contact is your local chapter of the Red Cross. They can tell you what kind of natural disasters occur in your area, how to prepare for each, and how you will be warned of an emergency. Also, many communities extend special assistance to those who have mobility problems by registering these people with a local fire department or emergency management office. Professional help will then be administered quickly and with priority in an emergency to people with physical limitations and mobility challenges. If you are a caregiver who still must work outside the home, ask your supervisor about any emergency plans that may be in effect at your workplace. For example, some places will not allow employees to leave for home until an “all clear” has been given by local authorities, so caregivers need to take a policy like this into consideration when creating an at-home safety plan for a loved one. If you are the caregiver of a special-needs child who is mainstreamed into the public school or daycare system, ask the teachers or directors about emergency plans for the school, and how it will include and affect your young loved one. Also, if you currently utilize a personal care attendant from an agency, find out whether the agency has special provisions during an emergency; will they continue to provide care and services at another location if your loved one needs to be evacuated from their current environment?

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