Hurricane Season and Covid-19

Hurricane season commenced June 1st. How do we prepare during the pandemic? If you’re a user of assistive technology (AT), consider these 9 tips:

Satellite image of Hurricane Harvey in the Gulf of Mexico
Photo credit: Department of the Interior

One. Evacuate Before It Is Mandatory

If you are in the path of a hurricane, get out as soon as evacuation is recommended. Hurricanes, unlike floods and fires, are advance-notice events. Take advantage of the warning. Shelter space may be limited because of the need for social distancing. People with disabilities are at risk of being diverted to nursing homes. An accessible weather radio can help you keep up with warnings and instructions from authorities.

Two. Identify Who Will Help You Evacuate

Consider more than one support person in case your primary support person becomes ill or unavailable.

Three. Prepare Your Go-Kit

Prepare a go-kit that includes face masks, disinfectant wipes, and cleaning supplies you might need, particularly should you end up in an emergency shelter or nursing home. Don’t neglect medical information, emergency contacts, and prescriptions. Consider completing and including this Communication Passport for Accidents and Emergencies. If you use AAC, review the recommendations in Prepare for the Hospital – Plan Your Communication Strategy.

Four. Decide Where You Can Go And Stay

Plan now with friends and family where you can go to get out of the way of a hurricane’s path. Have backup locations should your first option not be available due to Covid-19 or another reason. Avoid plans to use a public shelter if you have any other options. Shelters will be screening people for Covid-19 symptoms. You could end up in a quarantine environment that’s not desirable for your needs.

Five. Consider Your Needs While Staying With Friends Or Family

Will you need a bath chair, grab bars, transfer bench or adapted eating utensils? Can you store an extra set of these items in their homes?

Six. Consider Your Powered Equipment

Do you have backup batteries, car or solar charges for your AT? Can you evacuate or shelter in place with non-powered alternatives in case you lose access to power? Consider acquiring a lightweight manual wheelchair for evacuation purposes and a laminated “low-tech” communication board if you use a communication device. Your state may have a reuse program that can provide back-up durable medical equipment at no or low cost. Find your state’s device reutilization program.

Seven. Email Yourself Your AT Information (Now!)

Keep information about your AT available in the cloud. Consider emailing yourself your device make and model number; how it was obtained (Medicaid, private insurance, personal pay), where you purchased it, any other important information should you need to replace your AT unexpectedly. Create a subject line you can search and find in the future.

Eight. Plan Your Shelter Stay

If your only option is a public shelter, contact your local emergency management office in advance of any emergency. Discuss your needs with them to make sure the shelter can accommodate you. Shelter locations and capacities may be different during the pandemic because of social distancing requirements.

Nine. If You Intend To Just Stay Home…

Don’t, if at all possible (unless advised by authorities). If you do shelter in place, remember power outages may last much longer because of limited utility personnel due to the pandemic. Stock up on water, food, medications, and backup power options such as charged batteries and a generator. You’ll still need to prepare for an emergency evacuation, so don’t neglect to prepare a go-kit and the additional recommendations listed here.

More Resources

Pandemic from the Department of Homeland Security

Hurricane Season 2020 and Covid-19 from the FTC

Going to a Public Disaster Shelter During the Covid-19 Pandemic from the CDC

American Meteorological Society Tornado Sheltering Guidelines during the COVID19 Pandemic (4.9.2020)