If you or someone close to you has a disability or other access or functional need, you may have to take additional steps to protect yourself and your family. While considerations for individuals with access and functional needs have been integrated into MEMA’s “Ready Massachusetts” main webpage (under the headings Be Informed , Make A Plan , Build a Kit, & Get Involved , this webpage has been created as an additional resource for more detailed emergency preparedness information.

Who are Individuals with Access & Functional Needs?

Persons with Access and Functional Needs are those individuals with function based needs (related to a restriction or limited ability to perform activities normally considered routine) that may require assistance before, during, and /or after a disaster or an emergency. Functional areas of need include: communication, medical support and services, maintaining independence, supervision, and transportation.

What should be done to plan and prepare for emergencies?

Think about your overall health needs, limitations and capabilities when you make your emergency preparedness plan. In addition, consider what needs you may have should you have to shelter-in-place or evacuate to a different location. Below are a few recommendations when making your plan:

  • Create a support network to help you plan for an emergency. Consider family, neighbors, friends, service providers, faith-based and community groups. Tell someone you trust where you keep your emergency supplies and give them a key to your home.
  • Contact your community's emergency management director and work with them to use their emergency planning resources.
  • Sign up for emergency alerts from your community and call 2-1-1 for information about critical health and human services available in your area.
  • If you receive dialysis or other life sustaining medical treatment, identify the location and availability of more than one facility and work with your provider to develop your personal emergency plan.
  • If you use a wheelchair or other assistive devices, show others how to operate them.
  • If applicable, keep contact information for local independent living centers and/or other support and services organizations in a safe and easy-to-access place. If you provide any organizations or service providers with information about your functional needs and what you may require in an emergency, keep that data up to date.
  • If you use in-home support services, Meals-on-Wheels, Life Alert or other support services, work with them to personalize emergency preparedness plans to meet your needs so you can keep in touch with them during and after an emergency. That contact may be your lifeline to other services in a disaster.
  • If you have or may have transportation needs, work with local transportation providers and/or disability services (e.g., Paratransit, Independent Living Centers) to plan ahead for accessible transportation.
  • Develop back-up plans for personal assistance services, hospice or other forms of in-home assistance.

Keep in mind that during an emergency, you may need to explain to first responders and emergency officials that you  need to evacuate and shelter with your family, service animal, caregiver or personal assistance provider so they can provide the support you need to maintain your health, safety and independence.

What items, unique to my needs, will be needed in my emergency kit?

In addition to the recommended items to include in a basic emergency supply kit, people with disabilities and other access and functional needs may wish to consider adding additional items to accommodate their particular needs such as:

  • 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 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 support needs, in case you are unable to describe the situation in an emergency
  • Supplies for your service animal
  • Medical insurance cards, Medicare/Medicaid cards, physician contact information, list of your allergies and health history
  • A list of personal contacts (e.g. family, friends, neighbors, service providers, supply providers, and caregiver).
  • A note pad and pen
  • If possible, extra medicine, oxygen, insulin, catheters or other medical supplies you use regularly.
  • If you use a motorized wheelchair, have a light weight manual chair available for emergencies. Know the size and weight of your wheelchair, in addition to whether or not it is collapsible, in case it has to be transported.
  • Even if you do not use a computer yourself, consider putting important information onto a portable thumb drive for easy transport in an evacuation.
For more information see the Massachusetts Department of Public Health's Considerations for Individuals with Access and Functional Needs webpage and FEMA's Individuals with Access & Functional Needs webpage.