Safe Transport: Sam’s Story

Being without transportation can present major challenges during a natural disaster. If someone in your family has a special health care need, it is important to have a plan in place that includes reliable transportation and a backup plan, in case your vehicle becomes damaged during a storm.

Photo of woman with young boy.

In 2011, a severe ice storm hit the Midwest, leaving Mary and her family without power, heat, or a reliable car. Mary’s son, Sam, has cerebral palsy (CP), which is a group of disorders that can affect a person’s ability to move and maintain balance and posture. Sam requires a specialized wheelchair and a wheelchair-accessible van in order to move from place to place. But during the ice storm, Mary’s van was damaged, keeping her from taking her son to a place where he could receive proper medical attention in a safe environment.

Mary quickly turned to her local community for help. “I called the sheriff’s office on that day, and was told to take him to the hospital,” she says. She soon realized that there was not an emergency plan in place to provide transportation for people in wheelchairs to help them get to shelters or the hospital. Without transportation, Mary and Sam were left stranded in their home. Mary encourages families with a child with a special health care need who could face similar emergencies to have an escape plan in place. “Have a set plan for transportation and a place that is safe and able to take care of your child.”

You can work with your community organizations ahead of time to find out if evacuation plans are available or not. If not, you can create your own plan for evacuating your family during an emergency. Visit the following sites for more information about creating your transportation and evacuation plans during an emergency with a child who has a special health care need.