Improve Access

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People—yourself included—need information they can use and understand in order to make the best decisions for their personal health preparedness. Information that is too difficult to find, use, or understand can lead people to make un- or underinformed and even dangerous choices. Vulnerable populations (e.g., older adults, people with limited health literacy, and people with disabilities) are at particular risk for injury, interruptions in healthcare, and even death as a result. It is the shared responsibility of the whole communityexternal icon to find ways to make preparedness more accessible and achievable for everyone.

  • Use age-appropriate language and resources, like Ready Wrigley activity books, to help you teach and talk to your children about emergency preparedness and planning.
  • Help to identify and reduce or remove common barriers to participation experienced by people with disabilities in your community. Barriers can make it difficult or even impossible for people with disabilities to prepare for, resist, and recover from the impacts of an emergency.
  • Empower family members with disabilities to prepare:
    • Encourage a family member with a disability to ask questions. For example, if they depend on a home use medical device, find out how to keep it working in a power outage.
    • Help a family member with a disability get an electronic or hardcopy of their medical recordexternal icon.
    • Remind a family member with a disability to contact their local public health or emergency management office if you or a family member will require evacuation assistance.
  • Report accessibility problems with the CDC website and others. Section 508external icon requires that CDC, as a federal agency, provide electronic and information technology products that are accessible to people with disabilities.
  • Shop for and save on emergency supplies during tax-free holidays in your state. Learn more about tax-free holidays where you live, and what items are exempt.
  • Learn more about the Emergency Prescription Assistance Programexternal icon (EPAP), which provides people in a federally-identified disaster area who do not have health insurance with access to medical equipment, medical supplies, vaccinations, and a free 30-day supply of prescription medications.
  • Talk to your pharmacist and use the Drugs@FDAexternal icon database to find out if there is a generic version of your brand-name prescription medication. Generic medications are as safe and effective as their brand-name counterparts, and often cost less.
  • Emergency planners: Take a whole community approachexternal icon to emergency planning. Involve local community-based organizations with programs that support populations with access and functional needs, including older adults and people with disabilities, in the planning process.
  • Emergency planners: Make use of tools like Community Assessment for Public Health Emergency Response surveys and technologies like the HHS emPOWER Mapexternal icon to assess local health and communication needs of a community before an emergency.
  • Emergency planners: Include children’s needs in emergency exercises and planning. Children require special attention in all areas of response planning, including evacuation, safe sheltering, reunification, and recovery.
  • Health communicators: Take practical steps to develop communications, products, and tools that all people can easily find, understand, and use to prepare and protect their health; for example:
    • Design materials in alternative formats (e.g. Audi-formats, Braille, large print, signed and captioned videos) for people with visual, auditory, intellectual and motor skill impairments, who may not be able to access information on the web, even with the use of assistive technologies.
    • Make sure the information on the web is 508 compliantexternal icon.
    • Write in plain language.
  • Healthcare professionals: Take the Blue Button Pledgeexternal icon to improve patient access to and use of electronic health recordsexternal icon. Electronic health records can make it easier for patients to check their records, share health information, and prepare for an emergency.
  • Healthcare professionals: Improve patient access to naloxone. CDC recommends that you educate patients at risk for opioid overdose and their loved ones on naloxone, its use, and where to get it.
  • Look into telehealth (i.e., the delivery of healthcare through technology, such as mobile phones or computers) and prescription delivery options. Both can help reduce barriers to care for people who live in rural communities or who have transportation or mobility issues.
Americans with Disabilities

Disasters and emergencies can be particularly challenging for the millions of people who have a disability. Here are some steps that people with disabilities can take on their own or with the help of a caregiver to prepare.

  • Complete a personal assessment. Think about what you will be able to do and what types of assistance (e.g., evacuation) you may need in an emergency.
  • Contact your public health department to enroll in a special needs emergency registry (where available) or sign up for Smart 911external icon if you have a functional, access, or medical need. These registries help first responders in your community better prepare for and respond to your needs in an emergency.
  • Form a personal support network of family, friends, relatives, neighbors, roommates, and people you work with who could help you in an emergency (e.g., an evacuation).
  • Make an emergency action plan that includes important phone numbers, personal care plans, and directions for what to do if someone finds you unconscious or unable to speak.
  • Keep a list of all prescription medications that includes information on your diagnosis, dosage, frequency, medical supply needs, and known allergies.
  • Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about creating an emergency supply of prescription medications. If you get treatments at a clinic or hospital, ask the person who helps you what to do if you can’t get your treatments during an emergency.
  • Keep an emergency supply kit in your home, car, workplace, or anywhere you spend your time. Include food, water, a first aid kit, adaptive equipment, batteries, and supplies for your pets or service animals.
  • Inspect your home for hazards. Check the rooms, hallways, stairwells, etc. for things that can move, fall, or break and could keep you from getting out in an emergency. Get rid of things you could trip over. Secure or remove appliances and furniture.
Page last reviewed: April 10, 2020, 04:15 PM