Disabled and preparing for Hurricane Irma | Why I’m not evacuating

Preparing for hurricane Irma is a stressful process for everyone, but when you're disabled, there's a lot more to consider. Evacuation isn't always an option.

As I write this post, I’m going through a list in my head of all the things I need to do before Hurricane Irma makes her way here. A family member texted my mom last night to ask if we were in her path. All we could do was laugh because literally, the entire state is in her path.

Normally, we’re not too stressed about hurricanes. It’s just part of Florida life. When they’re as intense as Irma, though, it’s time for everyone to be concerned. So, we’ve been powering through our anxieties and preparing all week.

On Tuesday, we began getting all the supplies we knew we’d need. We filled up our gas tank and went grocery shopping. We definitely have enough food and batteries, but water was sold out everywhere. I called Target that night because I heard they might be getting a delivery the next day, but they couldn’t really tell me anything.

Wednesday morning, my mom braved the crowds at 8 am just in case. She said it was like Black Friday with lines out and around the store before it even opened. Police were there as well, and the store placed a 2 gallon per person limit on water. Luckily my mom managed to get her two gallons before it all sold out by 8:15. Looks like we’ll be filling up every pitcher and empty milk jug we have, plus the bathtub!

We’ve also ordered a weather radio that should hopefully get to us by the end of today. That will be a huge help since we don’t have cable, and we know we’re going to lose power anyway. Cross your fingers that it gets to us in time!

A lot of our preparations are just the standard – take photos for insurance, bring everything outside in, gather important documents, etc. There’s a lot to do before a storm hits, but when you’re disabled you have so much more to think about.

Once the power goes out, we have to be prepared to basically sit still all day with our chairs turned off. We’ll no longer be able to charge our wheelchairs, and while they’re good for 30 miles, it’s best to play it safe since you never know how long you’ll be without power!

We also won’t have our air mattresses at night without electricity. Our mattresses use a pump and have alternating chambers so it’s constantly inflating/deflating in different areas all night. This is to prevent bed sores, which is pretty important for us.

We’re not in a flood zone, and our apartment management has reassured us that we should be fine (flood wise) but you honestly never know. Hurricanes are super unpredictable, and flooding would be an absolute disaster. Our chairs are super heavy and will be destroyed if they get wet, and our apartment doesn’t have elevators to get to a higher floor.

While I genuinely don’t think my apartment is going to flood, it’s a possibility we have to consider. The only thing I think we could do by that point would be to try and get to a shelter. Given the fact that my brother and I have ‘severe’ disabilities and a pet, our shelter options are limited.

We have to be preregistered for the Special Needs Emergency Shelter Program. From my understanding, you sign up and then if you need transportation you call for them to come pick you up. There’s still no guarantee that they’ll be able to get you by the time you call, and I’m guessing they wouldn’t bring our wheelchairs. We saw how well my county does with emergencies involving wheelchairs on a GOOD day. I could be wrong, but I’ve heard they just bring ambulances. In that case, they wouldn’t be able to bring our chairs. For that reason, shelters are an absolute last ditch effort.

I know that many people are wondering why we would stay. Every five minutes, I scroll through Twitter and see people freaking out that there’s no reason to wait it out in Florida and to just pack up the car and go right now. My own family asked if we were going to evacuate, even though they honestly should know better by now.

Evacuation isn’t an option for us.

First of all, we have nowhere to go. All of Florida is getting hit, so to get somewhere that’s better than our current location, we’d have to leave the state. I have family in different states along the east coast, but none of them have an accessible home. Not one.

Theoretically, we could get a hotel, but those fill up fast and they’re expensive. Finding one that’s accessible enough for my brother and I isn’t ever easy. If we were to evacuate, we would have already left days ago. Irma is supposed to be here until around Tuesday, so you’re looking at almost a week in a hotel. We can’t afford that. Plus, you never know if you’ll be able to get back home as quickly as you hope so the cost could be way more than you planned for.

Even if we did have somewhere to go, there’s also the chance that we’d get stuck on the highway and run out of gas. The roads have been a nightmare for a while now and there have been gas shortages since Tuesday. I’ve read horror stories of people drowning in their cars. I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather ride out a hurricane in my apartment than in a car.

Taking all of that out of consideration, it’d be nearly impossible just to get all of our necessary equipment – wheelchairs, chargers, hoyer lifts, mattresses, and pumps, etc, into our car. There’s just not enough room.

It’s just us.

My mom is doing everything and she’s typically exhausted on a normal day. Expecting her to get three adults and a cat ready and out of the house, all of our clothes, food, and supplies, plus equipment is wildly unrealistic. It’s not happening.

I’d love to leave Florida, but it’s not possible at this point. Evacuation is a privilege, and there’s a lot of reasons why people stay in the path of a hurricane. It’s not because people want to or because they’re underestimating a storm, it’s just that they’re stuck. Please keep that in mind when you think you’re helping by pressuring people to leave. It’s almost never that simple.

So, that’s where I’m at with Hurricane Irma!

My city is about 30 to 40 miles inland so I’m hoping (lol) it won’t be too awful where we are. The storm covers the entire state so I don’t think it matters too much where we are. At this point, it’s hard to tell what will happen. It’s basically guaranteed we’re going to lose power, the question is just when and for how long.

I’m going to schedule a post to go up on Tuesday. I’m hoping I’ll have power and internet back in time for Friday. I’ll be posting updates on Twitter letting everyone know what’s going on and how we’re doing as much as I can!

While I’m scared for Florida and what Irma will bring, please remember the islands in the Carribean that have already been devastated. Donate money if you can because they’re going to need all the help and support they can possibly get, especially with Jose already at a Category 2. I’ll try my best to RT any fundraising links I can find on Twitter!

If you’re in Irma’s path, please try your best to stay safe! My thoughts are with you all, and I hope you’re all okay.

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