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Evacuation - Medical

People with chronic medical conditions often need help managing their disease, syndrome, or disorder. Caregivers may provide assistance; but in an emergency, people with chronic conditions can lose equipment, medicine, or care support that they need. Planners should consider these medical needs 1 when creating disaster plans.


Work with care facilities. People who need daily medical care and support may not know where to get help during and after an event. There are facilities and groups in the community that provide these services every day. To help people with disabilities, planners can:

Make sure medication is available. People with medical needs may require basic medications for daily living or to relieve pain. They might need medication to help them stay independent and carry out daily activities. Planners can:

Find supplies of durable medical equipment. People with disabilities may require durable medical equipment (DME), such as hospital beds, wheelchairs, and walkers. Identify sources for this equipment in the community before an event.

Document important medical and legal information. Everyone shares in the responsibility to plan and prepare for disasters. Planners should ask everyone to record important medical and legal information. Planners should also suggest how to store the information. This information will come in handy if someone cannot communicate these facts for themselves. Suggest that people create the following:

People with disabilities may need to keep other information. Planners can recommend several actions.

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Make sure equipment is accessible. During an event, someone with medical needs may not have access to support equipment. Planners can encourage their community to do the following:

Train emergency managers and responders. It is important to have enough supplies to support the needs of various disabilities. It is also important to train personnel to use equipment that they might use during an event. Train responders how to interact with people with disabilities before an event. The training should focus on allowing people to maintain independence and dignity. Training should also include stress management and mental health issues. If possible, include mental health staff in a training and response plan.

Develop a system to shelter people with disabilities. In some communities, there are people with medical needs who will need professional support. Planners may consider creating a tiered sheltering system to support these needs. This system could send people with medical support needs to a shelter with trained providers. Planners should train shelter staff to provide blood pressure monitoring and basic first aid. Additionally, plans should allow family or friends to stay at special needs shelters. Family or friends may serve as caregivers during the event and reduce the demand placed on shelter staff.

Identify needs and issues that evacuees may have before they enter a shelter. A series of questions may help find assistance, make referrals, and provide long-term care. Consider using a questionnaire to triage the needs of people who enter shelters, such as the American Red Cross Initial Intake and Assessment Tool found at (PDF - 23 KB). Evacuees who enter regular shelters without medical support may get sick or their chronic conditions may get worse.

Include health promotion in sheltering plans. Share information on the following items within the shelter:

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People with medical needs may need services and financial support to recover from an event. Planners can:

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After an event, planners should draft an after action report to note lessons learned. The report should record the events and response that occurred. The report should include information on what support or equipment people required. The report should assess if needs were met during the disaster. The report should also include ways to revise and improve plans. If the response did not support the medical needs of people with disabilities, planners should work to improve plans.

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Additional Resources

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1 The definition for medical needs is currently being worked by a multi-agency work group. At present, the definition for seriously ill includes the casualty status of a person whose illness or injury is classified by medical authority to be of such severity that life is imminently endangered. (back)