Preparedness, Resiliency, and Equity Resources

Free disaster preparedness, resiliency, and equity resources for people with disabilities

Disasters of all kinds can have devastating and disproportionate impact on people with disabilities.

Disaster preparedness and an understanding of the system of health and emergency services in advance of a disaster is critical.

Personal Preparedness Tips

Disaster Preparedness can feel like a huge challenge for people with disabilities.

Preparedness is not a large one time commitment. Rather it is a way of thinking.  Common misconceptions are a lack of time, lack of money, lack of resources and lack of ability. Some of these concerns are even more significant for people with disabilities.

Here is a list of tips to help you start to think about preparedness:


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  • Think about what you do every day to take care of, or get help with your needs
  • Think about the places you go on a regular basis, how you can be prepared throughout the day. By understanding your needs and making a plan that matches your needs, preparedness becomes less overwhelming and more about what you do every day.
  • Identify which neighbors, friends, family, and caregivers you will want to connect with if a disaster happens. Connect with them before a disaster to make a communication plan.


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Gather emergency supplies to shelter in-place or take with you if you need to evacuate. These include basic emergency supplies like:

  • Water
  • Non-perishable food
  • Flashlights
  • Items for your specific needs

More to include:

  • Battery replacements
  • Extra glasses
  • Medication and medication lists
  • Important phone numbers and passwords
  • Consumable medical supplies
  • Durable medical equipment and extra parts
  • Emotional support items
  • Things that are important to you


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Make an evacuation plan. Think about:

  • Your routes
  • Your pathway
  • Options to stairs or elevators
  • Communications to people you need to talk to
  • How to carry your supplies with you
  • Transportation
  • Possible destinations

Planning for these can keep you safe!


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Identify where you might go to shelter after a disaster. You may need to leave your home for days, weeks or more.

You may shelter with friends and family close by or out of town. You may be sheltering in a disaster shelter.

There are many types of shelters, and having an accessible, inclusive place to stay is a must. Make sure to ask questions about:

  • The facilities
  • Services
  • Transportation
  • Space
  • Room for your equipment
  • Any other needs that are specific to you


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  • Sign up for local emergency notifications. Your city, county or state may reach out over radio and TV or through email, phone calls and text messages.
  • Enroll in emergency lists to know when you may need to evacuate!
  • If your community provides registries or lists that you can sign up for, be sure you know what they are going to do for you in a disaster. Knowing expectations helps you plan.

It's Your Plan

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  • It is very important to think about your needs, your resources, your preferences, your networks of support, your supplies, and your plan.  Nobody else knows what works best for you!
  • Many community initiatives have developed preparedness planning tools and training. Be selective and chose the one that is right for you.

Public Health Emergency Planning Toolkit

This Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) report, which WID co-authored, answers top questions around disability preparedness initatives, and prioritizes inclusive planning while providing overarching guidance that can be applied to a variety of health and public health systems and structures.

The report highlights key planning considerations to ensure public health emergency plans include people with disabilities, and is intended to be used in conjunction with other department and agency plans, as well as disability agencies in the local jurisdiction.

Access The Report

Disaster Readiness Policy Paper

This document explores the history and the range of social and personal factors that affect our community’s experience of disasters and emergencies. Extensive policy and practice recommendations are offered to support community readiness.

This paper can be distributed to policy-makers, agencies, and first-responder organizations in your community to alert them to important changes they can make to protect our safety and well-being. It can also be used by paralysis advocates to learn what to push for in their communities!

Disability Disaster Readiness - Overview & Recommendations - WID2019


Disaster Readiness Webinars

Here are recordings of two webinars we presented in collaboration with the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, one directed to people with paralysis and their families, and one directed to disability agencies, about readiness for our communities. View the videos below to learn more!

Disaster Readiness and Paralysis: A Webinar for Individuals and Allies

Disaster Safety for People with Paralysis – Webinar for Professionals and Advocates

Preparedness and Resilience Projects

We are grateful to the generous support of our partners and funders that have the vision, insight and shared commitment to disability-inclusive disaster health equity. With their support, we have created the following resources:

Health Plan Member-Focused Emergency Practices Roadmap, thanks to the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation

Decorative: Black man using a wheelchair walking with diverse group of friends.

Whole Community Disaster Planning

Whole Community Planning includes disability expertise

Each person is a part of the emergency management process. When we build from personal preparedness to community engagement and inclusive planning, we are jointly creating a disaster plan that meets the needs of the Whole Community.

People with disabilities:

  • Know their community
  • Know their needs
  • Know what works on a daily basis
  • Can provide expertise and technical assistance
  • May be experts in crisis response
  • Have experience innovating and problem solving

Planning for the whole community means planning with the whole community.

Each person can be as involved in this process as they desire. From personal preparedness to disaster planning, response and recovery, people with disabilities have a lot to contribute.

What is your role?

Disabilities, Disasters, and Equity

While we know disasters do not discriminate, people and systems do.

Decades of imbedded social and economic inequities create systemic and personal biases, barriers, and discriminatory practices that disproportionately impact people with disabilities and marginalized members of our community.

  • When people are both a person with a disability and a member of another marginalized populations, it becomes a force multiplier for disproportionate disaster impact.
  • Disasters don’t cause inequities, they expose them. Just as COVID has exposed long standing health access inequities and injustices, the COVID response has realized how deeply seeded the barriers can be.
  • Planning for health equity in a disaster begins with the pursuit of justice in community emergency management, social and infrastructure planning.

WID is engaged in multiple national and global projects predicated on the concept that in order to identify effective strategies and promising practices to improve resiliency, it is necessary to examine and understand how all sectors of the community are treated, both overtly and covertly; more specifically, how some members of the community are treated differently to their social and health detriment.

  • Including individuals with disabilities, diverse races, ethnicities, languages and cultures, and other traditionally excluded populations in the planning is the most effective method for identifying how these communities can achieve levels of equity
  • Excluding the voice of these community members prohibits the possibility of effectively understanding their need or capacity, creating a barrier to health and social resilience both before, during and after a disaster.

Looking for more ways to prepare your organization, company, or community for disasters?

We can support you with our Emergency, Disaster, and Climate Resilience Services!