Tips For The Disabled During Storms

Tuesday, April 10th 2007, 4:43 pm

By: News On 6

Tornado season is upon us, and it's important to be prepared, but it's even more important for people who are disabled. That's the focus of a special panel that was meeting in Tulsa. They say it's a lesson learned most recently in Hurricane Katrina, where some people with disabilities were not ready. The News On 6’s Steve Berg reports they say the caregivers for people with disabilities need to be ready too.

Tulsa resident David Paxton doesn't have to be told twice to take cover when a tornado hits.

"Sometimes even before the tornado,” said Paxton. “I'm kind of a chicken when it comes to tornadoes."

Paxton lost his leg five years ago and wears a prosthesis. His emergency plan is still essentially the same. He just gives himself more time.

"I do have a scooter at home that I use if I have my leg off, so I still go to the same hidey-hole that I went to before," said Paxton.

The needs vary widely, depending on the disability. For some, a loss of electricity can be life-threatening.
Others need to be sure they have medication, but generally speaking, the key is the same for non-disabled people. Have a plan and practice it.

"If you plan ahead of time then it's less stressful," said physical therapist Bert McLachlan.

McLachlan works with Paxton and others at the Center for Individuals with Physical Challenges. Sometimes the most important part of the plan is just asking for help.

"Because, you know, before you're disabled, you're very active, and now you're disabled and you don't want nobody to help you," said McLachlan.

The Oklahoma Developmental Disabilities Council held a meeting Tuesday in Tulsa where they stressed the need for good communication between the disabled and their caregivers.

"It's not that they can't care for themselves,” said Brook Borden of Oklahoma Department of Homeland Security. “That's what we're here to do is to tell them that you are empowered, and you are going to have the tools to do this, but there are people who may need help getting out or something like that."

If you're a friend or a family member of someone who's disabled and you know a storm's coming, they say it might be good to initiate the call to that person, even if you feel like you're being pushy, just to make sure they have what they need.

The rule of thumb for the disabled is the same for everybody else. Have everything you need for 72 hours. So if you have a wheelchair, that means you need 72 hours of battery power. If you have medication, you need to make sure you have a 72-hour supply of that and be sure to ask for help if you need it.

For more tornado tips and information, visit the News On 6' NEW tornado webpage.

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