With each June 1st comes that year’s hurricane season and a fresh reminder of the need to plan for potential emergencies. People often do not realize the full extent to which many important new challenges need to be taken into consideration following a brain injury, particularly new challenges that present themselves in relation to emergency evacuations. This series of posts is intended to educate regarding some useful and effective ways to approach those new challenges encountered when planning for an emergency evacuation with a brain injury survivor.
There are many possible issues following a brain injury that can arise regarding transportation preparedness. Below is a list of some of those issues.
1. Is the brain injury survivor able to drive independently to safety? If the survivor has not been cleared to drive, it is vital to identify a responsible party capable of transporting the survivor to safety. Can a friend or relative drive the survivor or does the survivor need to be evacuated through a municipal program? If a municipal program must be used, is the survivor registered for this program?
Many states provide emergency evacuation services for the disabled and elderly. It is recommended that all persons with disabilities be registered with their local 211 system or other like emergency evacuation system, even if they already have an emergency plan in place. Registering with an emergency evacuation system does not require that one use the services it offers, but it does provide a safety net in case an emergency plan does not work. Also, the 211 services are free so there can be no issues encountered related to registration costs.
2. It is important to come to a determination well in advance as to which vehicle will be best utilized in an evacuation. Ask yourself, “Do I have a vehicle that is able to transport all the people who would be evacuating while still possessing the room necessary to accommodate all necessary equipment (wheelchair, etc.)?”
3. If the brain injury survivor has a physical difficulty which affects the ability to transfer in or out of a vehicle, it is important that other people in the vehicle are educated on the necessary transfer process and capable of assisting.
4. Pre-plan and locate rest stops that are handicapped accessible. If the brain injury survivor is incontinent, it is important to find rest stops that have enough room to allow for changing a diaper and cleaning up. Often rest stops simply put a grab bar in a regular-sized stall in order to comply with accessibility laws, but unfortunately such restrooms remain from any practical or real perspective inaccessible.
5. For those that take medication or make frequent use of assistive equipment, make sure that any such medication or equipment is stored in an easily accessible location in the vehicle and not packed underneath many other items. It is important that medication not be stored in an area of the vehicle prone to excessive heat in order to avoid the medication potentially losing potency.
6. The cardinal rule on evacuation is that the earlier one leaves, the less potential there is for problems with transportation to occur.
Hopefully this post helped to raise awareness regarding transportation issues that a brain injury survivor needs to consider in the context of emergency preparedness. The next post will cover shelter/housing issues as they relate to emergency preparedness in such a scenario.
Learn about brain injury treatment services at the Transitional Learning Center: tlcrehab.org