Disability, lifestyle, and nerdy thoughts.

How to prepare for a hurricane when you’re disabled

When you’re disabled, hurricanes are a lot more complicated because it’s not as easy as hopping in the car and heading somewhere safe. I’ve been in Florida for over 10 years though and been through multiple storms, so here are a few things my family has learned about preparing for hurricanes when you’re disabled!

It’s hurricane season here in the sunshine state, which means it’s time for storm prepping! A lot of people wait until they know a storm is actually coming, my family included. After the wreck that was Irma, I’ve learned it’s best not to put it off.

When you’re disabled, getting ready for hurricanes is a lot more complicated. For people like me, it’s not as easy as hopping in the car and heading somewhere safe. I’ve been in Florida for over 10 years though and been through multiple storms, so here are a few things my family has learned about preparing for hurricanes when you’re disabled!

Shop early

When you’re disabled, hurricanes are a lot more complicated because it’s not as easy as hopping in the car and heading somewhere safe. I’ve been in Florida for over 10 years though and been through multiple storms, so here are a few things my family has learned about preparing for hurricanes when you’re disabled!
[IMG: completely empty freezers in the grocery story back from the week of Irma]
It sounds so obvious, but it’s easy to just put it off or not even think about it. Suddenly, there’s a storm headed your way and there’s no water or canned food anywhere. Last year was an absolute nightmare trying to get ANYTHING.

Go out and get things like batteries, extra chargers, flashlights, coolers, etc. There are tons of lists available online if you need help figuring out what you’ll need, and it’ll vary for different families.

One obvious thing is water, and it’s the hardest to find last minute so get a few packs of bottled water early. Or, you can just grab some empty water jugs and fill them up yourself before a storm comes, which is what my family did. We couldn’t find much bottled water, so we hoarded pitchers instead and it worked fine. If you have pets, don’t forget to get plenty of supplies for them as well!

If there are any supplies you’ll need, like gauze, bandages, or over the counter meds, you should stock up on those as well. Planning for dietary restrictions can be a little more complicated because you can only buy certain foods so far in advance, but just get what you can and figure out the rest when the time comes.

I’d also recommend a weather radio, which was also super hard to find last minute. It’s nice to still know what’s going on after the power goes out, especially if you’re worried about tornados. And I am always worried about tornados.

Planning for evacuation

Research evacuation protocols for disabled people in your area. Many cities aren’t equipped to handle people with power wheelchairs, medical equipment, or complicated requirements. I learned first hand while stranded in a Target parking lot that no emergency service near me had any way to transport my brother and I in our wheelchairs, so don’t just assume that your city will.

Not every shelter is accessible, and not every accessible shelter has what you might need. If you have a lot of medical equipment or a service animal, you’re going to have a harder time finding a place to go. Look it up and know which shelters will work for you now so when the time comes you already know where to go.

I’d also recommend looking up hotels further inland that are in your price range and can accommodate your needs as well. I know a lot of people just go to a hotel to ride out the storms, and this could be an option for you if you’re unable to leave the state.

Make a list of everything you know you’ll have to take with you if you do decide to leave. It’s much easier to make that plan now than it is when you’re stressed, scared, and hurrying. This way, it’s ready to go when you need it and you’re much less likely to forget something important. You could also start a bag to keep in your closet with a few spare outfits, some batteries, an extra phone charger, etc so it’s time to go you’re halfway done packing already.

Planning to stay

For a lot of people, leaving just really isn’t an option. By the time you know you need to leave, the entire state is already in chaos. If you aren’t out way ahead of the curve, you end up in massive traffic jams and many people can’t be stuck in a car that long. Plus, not everyone can afford to just leave every time a big storm comes ‘just in case’. Also…. not everyone even has an accessible vehicle or any vehicle at all for that matter.

The point is, there are a ton of reasons to stay. Talk it out with whoever you live with and see if that’s the right call for you. If it is, have a gameplan. Know where the safest parts of your home are. You might not be able to get your house or apartment ready by yourself, but you probably know people who will also stay to ride out the storm. Ask if they’d help you with things like boarding up windows or getting sandbags.

As hectic as Florida gets days before a hurricane, communities usually will come together to help so don’t be afraid to reach out! My neighbors were a lifesaver last year and our apartment definitely would’ve flooded had they not made us makeshift sandbags.

When you’re disabled, hurricanes are a lot more complicated because it’s not as easy as hopping in the car and heading somewhere safe. I’ve been in Florida for over 10 years though and been through multiple storms, so here are a few things my family has learned about preparing for hurricanes when you’re disabled!
[IMG: the yard at my apartment complex starting to flood, hours before Irma had even reached my city.]

Power outages

Obviously, you’re probably going to lose power. If you have special medical equipment, you’re going to have to plan ahead for what to do in this scenario. Contact your power company and see what their protocols are for medically essential services. That’s something I didn’t know this until last year. They’ll prioritize homes and communities with people who are dependent upon electric powered medical equipment. My apartment complex only lost power for around 12-14 hours after Irma. For comparison, my friends were out of power for a week.

If you’re going to need a generator, please please please be safe and make sure you learn the proper ways to use them. They really can be dangerous, so take it seriously.

Prepare for the worst case scenarios.

Even if you plan to stay, you might not be able to in the end. In Florida, you can register with emergency service/disaster evacuation programs for people with disabilities. I’ve never done this myself, so I can’t tell you how well it does or doesn’t work. It’s definitely something to look into.

In the event that you need to be rescued from your home, make sure you have all the emergency contact information you’ll need ready to go. Have important documents in a folder that you can find quickly and easily. Things like identification for your family and pets, medical information, etc etc. Put your name and contact information on your medical equipment and supplies. Label things like your medication and devices so nothing vital gets left behind or lost. Have everything on a list as well.

Stay safe!

Hurricanes aren’t always full blown disasters, but it’s important to take them seriously and prepare for the worst. It’s so much easier to put in the time and effort to get ready now. It gets overwhelming super fast if you wait until a storm is on the way. That’s all I can think of right now, but if there’s anything I forgot to mention or if you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment or send me a message on any of my social media!

Fingers crossed we have a quiet season this year!



3 thoughts on “How to prepare for a hurricane when you’re disabled”

  • Hi Karly — I’ve been in a chair 5 times so far. Currently able-bodied & mobile. In a chair, I wore a fanny pack with the bag in front. I carried in it a photo ID card, whistle, prescription meds, cell phone, a spare cell phone battery, LED flashlight that uses one AA battery, two spare AAs, medical insurance card, VISA card, compass, map with HOME marked, a couple space blankets, spare leather gloves for propelling the chair, a few first aid items, a phone list, some emergency cash, and a key ring with keys stamped “House,” “Car,” etc. Don’t know how disabled you may be, but I found people willing to help me out whenever I needed it. RE your chair not fitting into emergency vehicle… ask if a bystander with a pickup truck can put it the pickup bed and follow the emergency vehicle. My trick was to be as self-reliant as possible, so people didn’t treat me like a casualty. I wasn’t a casualty — just had polio, broken bones, etc. All that was my body, not me. I have one dumb idea for you — if you might get flooded, keep an uninflated life raft spread out in a room, stocked with blankets etc. If you do get flooded, pop the inflator, get in the life raft, and wait for rescue. From what you’ve written, I do not consider you disabled. You THINK — so you’ll survive when stupid able-bodied people will not. All the best!
    P.S. Been through floods, hurricanes, a tornado, blizzards, ice storms, dust storms, and heat waves. All survivable!

    • Thanks for the tips! Definitely helpful. As for the truck, my chair weighs over 250 pounds, so I don’t think that’d probably be possible but for other people it might be a viable option.

      I definitely would say that I am disabled, my disease is pretty significant and that’s just sort of how it is. But I consider it an important part of who I am and I take a lot of comfort (and pride!) in identifying as disabled so it’s all good!

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to write! I appreciate it💜

  • Kind of you to reply! A 250-lb chair is a power chair, with heavy batteries. I always had the manual kind, starting with a little wicker one that had the wheelchair wheels on backwards (big ones in the front). I raced wheelchairs with other kids in the hospital halls. I could make an abrupt turn at speed by sticking a butter knife through the wicker to stop a wheel, then pulling it out again. I’d either turn or tip over. Yes, I’ve been having knives confiscated from an early age. MD is a tough deal, but I’d prefer it to Alzheimer’s. From the pictures on your website, you’re getting to go a lot of places. The more the better! I’d hoped that by now there would be alternative technology that could bypass the non-working nerve pathways in the body. It’s coming, I think, and at 26 you’ll live to see and use it. When I broke my left thigh bone in a motorcycle accident, I designed a “cast” that would let me walk by putting the weight under my armpit. It was hinged at the hip and used weights at the foot to move the leg forward and backward. Didn’t get to build it, though. I am a pilot and build Experimental airplanes, so I have the tools to build just about anything. I ended up the go-to guy at church when little old ladies need something built. I’ll close by saying I like your attitude, and every day is another adventure. I know only one person who was truly depressed, and that when a dump truck backed over her Honda Civic…

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