Disaster Preparedness for Families with Special Health Care Needs

Frequently Asked Questions

1) How will I get my child’s medication filled/refilled in an emergency if pharmacies are closed or the mail is not delivered?

Following are recommendations:

a) Develop a family or personal disaster plan. A sample disaster plan can be found on the Somerset County EMA website at: EMA , you may also call at (814) 445-1515 for a copy.

 b) Develop a family or personal disaster kit. In this disaster kit include clear copies of your driver’s license (or other form of government issued ID) and current prescription medication labels for you and your child. Make sure the following prescription information can be read on the prescription labels: name of child; prescribing physician; name of pharmacy; dosage; and instructions. Also include a copy of your health insurance card. If you or your child has any allergies or needs special accommodations include this information in this kit. It is also recommended that you include things like bottled water, foods that do not need to be cooked or refrigerated (crackers, tuna fish, peanut butter, etc.), a radio with batteries, and warm blankets and clothing. It is a good idea to include recent color photographs of your children in your kit. These things should be stored in a place that is easy to access and your kit should be examined occasionally to be sure that everything is still usable. Your kit should be in a waterproof container. Children can make their own kits, with activities that are of interest to them. Remember to replace any items you take out/use from your disaster kit.

 c) Make sure your regular pharmacist knows that your child has special health care needs. Give the pharmacy a copy of a letter from your child's health care provider that explains your child’s special needs. Include a copy of this letter in your disaster kit. Ask your pharmacist how they would continue to provide services in a disaster. You may want to consider contacting your health insurer to find out if you are able to order a three month supply of medication by mail.

2) What if my child’s medicine is at home and my child is at school during a disaster?

Consider contacting your child’s teacher/provider/school nurse about developing a ‘portable disaster kit’ for your child. This kit can include a Family Emergency Card,  which a sample can be down loaded and copied from the Somerset County EMA website at: EMA Other types of  Emergency Cards are available on the internet. Inform your child’s teacher/provider/school nurse about your child’s portable disaster kit. Be part of any school-based emergency planning activities and remind the planning members of your child's medication/healthcare needs. Be sure to keep the school or childcare program informed of any medication/healthcare changes for your child. State law requires that all public schools have an emergency plan that addresses a variety of emergency situations. Families are encouraged to be proactive. Check with your school Superintendent or Principal in your district who is responsible to have this information. Also, your child’s school nurse may have information to share with you.

3) What if my child or loved one uses life-sustaining technology such as a ventilator or oxygen and my electricity goes out?

You may want to contact the company (known as a durable medical equipment vendor) that provides you with this equipment to find out what kind of emergency plans they have in place. Ask how they will continue to provide services in the event of a disaster. Inform your local utility companies of your child's medical technology needs and ask about their emergency plans. Contact your local ‘first responders’ (e.g., Emergency Medical Service (EMS), fire, or police). If you do not know who your local first responders are, contact your town/city hall and ask. If possible, try to secure a portable generator for your home.

4) How can I make sure my child or loved one who uses a wheelchair can get out of a building in an emergency when the elevator is not available?

Let your neighbors know that your child uses a wheelchair and that help may be needed to get out of the building. Contact your local ‘first responders’ (e.g. Emergency Medical Service (EMS), fire, or police) about your child’s needs so that responders know about your child’s special needs before they arrive at your home. If you do not know who your local first responders are, contact your town/city hall and ask.

5) How will I know where and when to pick up my child with special health care needs in an emergency?

Develop a personal emergency plan with the school, childcare program, or other caregivers to determine where and when to pick up your child. Ask how emergency messages/instructions would be sent to you. Make sure that the school, childcare program, or other caregivers have correct contact information for you and that you have their correct contact information.

6) In an emergency, how can I make sure emergency workers know that my child is nonverbal and non-ambulatory?

Develop relationships with your local ‘first responders’ (e.g., Emergency Medical Service (EMS), fire, or police) about your child’s needs. If you do not know who your local first responders are, contact your town/city hall and ask. It is also good to develop a network of family/friends who can (with your permission and in yourabsence) explain your child's special needs.Have your child carry a Family Emergency Card in his/her backpack. (See response #2 for information for a Family Emergency Card). Be sure that allcaregivers know and can tell first responders where to find this information.

7) Are all emergency shelters accessible for wheelchairs and persons who may need additional help during the emergency?

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/ada/emergencyprep.htm) requires local government emergency preparedness and response programs to be accessible to people with disabilities.

You may want to contact your local emergency management director prior to an emergency so that they know what your child's special needs are and how to plan for them. If you do not know who your local EMA Coordinator is contact the Somerset County EMA office at (814) 445-1515.

8) What would happen if there were an emergency during transportation to and from school?

Your child's Individual Educational Plan (IEP) or Individual Health Plan (IHP) should include planning for emergency situations both in school and while being transported to school. Explain your child's special needs and ensure that they are carefully communicated to all drivers. Ask to have a copy of your child’s Family Emergency Card (see response #2 for information on a Family Emergency Card) in the vehicle. Make sure that the transportation company has correct contact information for you and that you have their correct contact information. You should also contact your child’s teacher/provider/school nurse about this issue as well. Consider planning for unexpected problems during the daily commute, such as a problem with the vehicle or traffic delays – pack extra water and a snack, to cover extended periods away from the destination. (Also see response #2 about developing a ‘portable disaster kit’ for your child).

If you have further questions, please contact:

Somerset County Emergency Management
100 East Unions Street
Somerset PA 15501
(814) 445-1515

County Annex Office Building
300 North Center Avenue
Somerset, PA 15501
Somerset County Courthouse
111 East Union St.
Somerset, PA 15501