Functional Needs

The more you plan for an emergency, the better off you will be.

Some emergencies may mean that you stay at home. Other types may cause you to leave your home to go to a friend’s house or an emergency shelter. You may need to make special arrangements to make sure you are ready.

Those who are deaf or hard of hearing may need find out a special way get emergency warnings. People without cars, vans or other types of transportation may need to find a way to get to where they need to go. Those with special dietary needs may need to make sure they can get food from a different emergency food supply.

While each person’s needs differ, everyone can take steps to get ready for all types of emergencies. You can plan today to be ready for any emergency tomorrow.

Things to consider:

  • How a disaster might affect your specific needs.
  • Plan to make it on your own, at least for a while. You may not have access to a medical place or drugstore.
  • Know what you use daily. Think about what you would do if you could not get those things.
  • Put together an emergency kit with your own needs in mind. What do you need to maintain your health, safety and independence?

Contact your county emergency management office ahead of time, and tell them of your or your family member’s own needs. Ask about what help they can give.

To learn more on how people with disabilities and other functional needs can prepare for emergencies, go to:


Tab/Accordion Items

Plan now for what you need to stay safe, healthy and independent during or after an emergency. Some emergencies may mean that you stay at home. Other types may cause you to leave your home to go to a friend’s house or an emergency shelter.

You will need to have the basic items in the basic emergency supply kit. People with functional needs also may need extra emergency things to help them.

For more emergency preparedness information, go to the FEMA Office of Disability Integration and Coordination.

Make sure emergency alerts are enabled on your smartphone and sign up for any emergency alerts from your local government.

Household Emergency Plan

Think about all of the plans, services, devices, tools and techniques you use to live with a disability on a daily basis when you are getting ready for an emergency. You may need medications, sturdy medical equipment, useable medical supplies, your service animal, assistive technology, communications tools, disability service providers, housing that you can get to, transportation and health-related items.

  • Create a support group to help you plan for an emergency. Think of having family, neighbors, friends, people who give services to you, faith-based and community groups in your group. Tell these people where you keep your emergency supplies. Give at least one of these people a key to your house or apartment.
  • Call your city or county government's emergency management office. Work with them to use their emergency planning tools.
  • If you get dialysis or other life-sustaining medical treatment, know and list the location and availability of more than one place. Work with your doctor to have a personal emergency plan.
  • Show others how to use your wheelchair or other assistive equipment.
  • Keep contact information for local independent living centers and other disability services groups in a safe and easy-to-access place. Look over and update any details that you give to any groups or service provider about your functional needs and what you may need in an emergency.
  • Work with those in-home support groups (Meals-on-Wheels, Life Alert, etc.) to make an emergency preparedness plan that meets your needs. Keep in contact with them during and after an emergency. Being able to speak to them may be your lifeline to other services in a disaster.
  • Work with local transportation and disability services (e.g., Paratransit, Independent Living Centers) to plan ahead for a way (car, bus, van, etc.) to leave your home during/after an emergency.
  • Make back-up plans for help (hospice or other types of in-home help) for your needs.

During an emergency, you may need to tell to fire fighters, police and medical staff that you need to leave your home and shelter with your family, service animal, caregiver or personal assistance provider. This will help them to give you the help you need to keep your health, safety and independence.

Staying independent during disasters checklist

Have the basic things in your emergency supplies kit. Other things you may need are:

  • Extra eyeglasses, hearing aids if you have them or have coverage for them.
  • Battery chargers and extra batteries for hearing aids, motorized wheelchairs or other battery-operated medical or assistive technology devices.
  • Copies of medical prescriptions, doctors’ orders and the style and serial numbers of the support devices you use.
  • Medical alert tags or bracelets or written descriptions of your disability and support needs, if you cannot tell someone about your needs in an emergency.
  • Supplies for your service animal.
  • Medical insurance cards, Medicare/Medicaid cards, physician contact information, list of your allergies and health history.
  • List of the local non-profit or community-based groups that know you or help people with access and functional needs like yours.
  • List of personal contacts, family and friends that you may need to get in touch with in an emergency.
  • Covered personal communication board, if you might need assistance with being understood.
  • If possible, extra medicine, oxygen, insulin, catheters or other medical supplies you use on a normal basis.
  • If you use a motorized wheelchair, have a light weight manual chair available for emergencies. Know the size, weight and if it is collapsible, in case it has to be moved to another place.
  • Even if you do not use a computer yourself, think about putting important facts onto a flash drive for you to take with you if you need to leave your house.

What to take to a shelter checklist

If you get federal disability benefits, you should think about getting payments electronically. After an emergency, mailed checks can take a long time to get to you. Using direct deposit is safer than a paper check. It also saves you a trip to the bank every month. To sign up for Social Security direct deposit, call (800) 333-1795.

You can also use a Direct Express® prepaid debit card as another safe and easy way to paper checks if you don't have a bank account. Sign up is easy! Call toll-free at (877) 212-9991, or sign up online at:

Signing up for direct deposit or the Direct Express® card is easy. It is a key step that can help keep your family's access to monies in emergencies safe. Think about moving to one of these safer, easier choices today.