Emergency PreparednessTips from Individuals with SCI*
*Tips were gathered from the Washington Women’s Wheelchair Network, an online information and support group. These tips are offered as information only, and the University of Washington Department of Rehabilitation Medicine does not warrant or assume any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information or suggestions disclosed.
- “Have extra quantities of everything in your emergency supplies... better to have too much than not enough.”
- Tool/Supply/First Aid bag: Many people have multiple bags or some combination. Here are the most often cited items by type of kit:
- Wheelchair Tools: spare inner tube, flat tire repair kit, bicycle pump, wrenches, allen wrenches, a Leatherman (combination tool), extra bolts/nuts, cold weather gloves.
- Supplies: extra catheters, baby wipes with HibiClens (antiseptic/antimicrobial skin cleanser), latex or surgical gloves, suppositories, waterproof pads in case of incontinence, extra medication, nifedipine or nitro cream for autonomic dysreflexia.
- First Aid Kit: band aids, topical antibiotic, sunscreen, aspirin, wipes, lip balm, lotion for hands, etc.
- “This (supplies) bag always stays in the trunk of my car and goes with me when I travel. If I get stuck overnight somewhere, I can get by.”
- “Small supply of antibiotic when traveling in case of an infection“
- “When traveling, make sure you have supplies with you. I was stuck in Florida after 9/11 and getting supplies was very difficult.”
- “At home, I always have a cordless phone nearby. Also, I keep my cell phone on my person.”
- “I had a low blood sugar incident so now I keep a power bar or something similar and a bottle of water in my car.”
- “Try to keep the car maintained and running well.”
- “Don't let the gas tank get too low; getting to a gas station can sometimes be tough in a wheelchair and gas pumps may not work during a power outage.”
- “Keep a couple of twenty dollar bills squirreled away in the glove box in case you need cash somewhere.”
- Autonomic Dysreflexia (AD) instruction card: “One time I went to a local emergency room with very bad AD and they had no idea what to do. The card was a life saver; literally.”
- “I keep extra catheters at home and also in the car. I keep at least 1 extra in my purse, along with the 5 I always have going at any one time.”
- “We keep cases of water at home and always keep some in the car.”
- “We bought a battery charger unit at Costco. You plug it in and charge it, and then if you lose power, you can charge your chair with it (or anything else electrical for that matter).”
- “I use a chair lift to get upstairs to my bedroom, so my husband installed an automatic deadbolt on the door at the bottom of the stairs with a remote that I keep on the chair lift. If I am home alone and have an emergency (like the chair lift stopping half way up the stairs) I can call for help and unlock the door for someone to help me. I also make sure I always have my cell phone on me when I'm home alone. Once I fell out of my chair and used the deadbolt remote to let the fire fighters in to "rescue" me.”
- “I also keep empty water bottles in the van in case I can't find an accessible restroom. They're convenient and disposable.”
- For those of you in multi-story buildings: “Some newer buildings have "evacuation elevators" that remain in use during emergencies. They have a backup power supply and pressurization to prevent smoke/heat build up. It might be helpful to know if they have this in your building. There are also various evacuation chairs for going down stairs. This is how someone with at C5-6 injury was successfully evacuated over 60 stories on 9/11. The cost is about $1,000. “
- “I have a bag that hangs behind my legs and attaches under my seat cushion that contains my day planner and purse as well as all of my other supplies. My tire pump is attached to my chair directly above my front caster. My cell phone and house keys are always attached to my seat cushion. I also carry a small backpack on the back of my chair that contains all of my cathing (catheterizing) supplies as well as extra medications "just in case." If I am ever in a rush all of these things are always with me. I don't have to waste time looking for things I might forget in a panic. I also have a couple of small bottles of hand sanitizer.”
- “We are part of a Seattle Disaster Action Response Team (SDART) in our neighborhood. Our particular house has one function and other neighbors have assigned functions.” Note: SDART is now called SNAP (Seattle Neighborhoods Actively Prepared) and is a program of the City of Seattle Office of Emergency Management, http://www.seattle.gov/emergency/programs/snap/; email: firstname.lastname@example.org;
- “After being stranded on the 5th floor of a mall during a false alarm for a fire, I worked with a physical therapist who taught me how to go up and down escalators and down stairs in a manual wheelchair.”