Plan Ahead for Emergencies

For stroke survivors with aphasia, physical or cognitive disabilities, emergencies like those our country experienced last year and in recent months — hurricanes, floods, wildfires, frigid fronts, earthquakes and mud floods — can pose life-threatening challenges. The only way to meet any of those challenges is to prepare ahead of time for these events. The breadth of possibilities of what may be required in an emergency is beyond the scope of this article, but we will give you a broad outline and direct you to resources with more detailed information.

Step 1 — Assess your situation: How mobile are you? Does your medication require refrigeration? Are you on an upper floor or in a flood zone? What kind of disasters are likely where you live?

Step 2 — Gather information about what resources your community has in place to deal with disasters.

Step 3 — Make a plan: This needs to be written down and as detailed as you can make it. Here are some things to consider:

  • How will you evacuate? Identify primary and secondary exits.
  • If the power goes out, what are your options for getting out of the building?
  • How will you contact loved ones? Get everybody’s contact information in your phone. Keep a paper copy with your plan and in your purse or wallet.
  • Where will you meet family, both near your home in case of a fire and outside your neighborhood in a larger disaster?
  • What resources can you call upon to meet your particular needs in a disaster environment?
  • List your prescriptions and doctors.
  • Designate an out-of-town contact who family members should call — often after a disaster it is easier to make a long-distance call than a local one.
  • For a detailed outline of an emergency plan, download Preparing for Disaster for People with Disabilities and Special Needs.

Step 4 — Make a backup plan for the plan you created in Step 3. In a disaster, assume Murphy will be right and what can go wrong will go wrong.

Step 5 — Create a personal support network. Identify those people you can trust and can check to see if you need assistance. Combine all of their contact information in Plan A and Plan B. Contact each one to make sure they know you are depending on them. They Identify those people you can trust and can check to see if you need assistance. Combine all of their contact information in Plan A and Plan B. Contact each one to make sure they know you are depending on them. They should know your capabilities and needs and be able to provide help quickly. Do not depend on only one person.

Step 6 — Plan for your pets. Take your pets with you if you evacuate. However, be aware that pets (not service animals) are not usually allowed in emergency public shelters. Prepare a list of family, friends, boarding facilities, veterinarians and “pet-friendly” hotels that could shelter your pets in an emergency.

Step 7 — Assemble a disaster supplies kit. This is a collection of basic items needed to stay safe and be more comfortable during and after a disaster. This includes food, water and medication for three days and many other items, including a charger for your cell phone. The CDC has a complete list of items to include. Everything should be stored in a portable container(s) near an exit door. Review the contents at least once a year. Consider having emergency supplies in your car and at your place of employment.

Step 8 — Maintain your plan. Review it twice a year and update your personal support network and their contact information. Restock expired food. Check the expiration date of your fire extinguisher. Replace smoke alarm batteries once a year.

Other Suggestions

  • If you use an electric wheelchair, have a manual one for backup.
  • Learn the capabilities of your mobile device to assist you in receiving emergency instructions and warnings from local officials.
  • Be prepared to provide clear, specific and concise instructions to emergency personnel. Practice giving these instructions.
  • Prepare your personal support network to assist you with anticipated reactions and emotions associated with disaster and traumatic events, i.e., confusion, memory difficulties, agitation or panic.
  • Check your insurance to know what you are covered for. For instance, most homeowners insurance does not cover floods. Ask your insurance agent to explain your coverage.
  • Inventory your possessions and make a record to help you make a claim. Store this in a safe deposit box or a flood- and fireproof safe. Include photos or video of your home (interior and exterior) as well as cars and durable medical equipment and record the make and model number.
  • Vital family records and other important documents such as birth and marriage certificates, Social Security cards, passports, wills, deeds and financial, insurance and immunization records should be kept in a safe deposit box or safe.
  • Install and maintain smoke detectors.
  • Buy and maintain a fire extinguisher. Learn how to use it.
  • For people with diabetes, read the FDA’s guidelines for storing and using insulin in emergencies.

If you are instructed to evacuate, do so at once and lock your home when you leave. Follow your plan.

If you have to evacuate, go to a relative or friend, if possible. They can be far more accommodating than a public emergency shelter, which can provide shelter and food while you are there but cannot provide personal health or medical care.

Use travel routes specified by local authorities and don’t use shortcuts because certain areas may be impassable or dangerous.

If you go to an emergency shelter, confirm immediately that it can meet your special care needs.

Inform members of your support network and out-of-town contact where you are and what your status is.

This information is provided as a resource to our readers. The tips, products or resources listed or linked to have not been reviewed or endorsed by the American Stroke Association.​

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AHA-ASA Resources

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Request Free Stroke Information Packets

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When Stroke Affects the Frontal Lobe

Of the four lobes that make up the cerebral cortex, the frontal lobe is the largest. It plays a huge role in many of the functions that make us human — memory, language, movement, judgment, abstract thinking.

When Stroke Affects the Temporal Lobe

The temporal lobe has several functions, mainly involved with memory, perception and language.

When Stroke Affects the Brain Stem

The brain stem serves as a bridge in the nervous system. It sits at the top of the spinal column in the center of the brain. When a stroke happens there, it can cause a few different deficits and, in the most severe cases, can lead to locked-in syndrome.

When Stroke Affects the Thalamus

The thalamus can be thought of as a "relay station," receiving signals from the brain’s outer regions (cerebral cortex), interpreting them, then sending them to other areas of the brain to complete their job.
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