Ready Now!Posted on by
A rare winter storm in 2008 buried Portland, Oregon under more than a foot of snow, leaving the city gridlocked. Like many others around the city, Nickole Cheron was stuck in her home for eight days. But for Nickole—who was born with spinal muscular atrophy, a genetic disease that weakens the body’s muscles over time—the storm was potentially life-threatening.
To live well with her disability, Nickole depends on outside assistance to get through her days, relying on a wheelchair and full-time caregivers for most routine tasks. Being alone and without assistance was not an option. Fortunately, Nickole had taken steps to prepare. She had signed up for Ready Now!, an emergency preparedness training program developed by the Oregon Office of Disability and Health, and she quickly put what she learned into action.
The Ready Now! training, presented in partnership with Oregon Health Sciences University, is specially designed to educate people with disabilities on how to prepare themselves for a disaster or an emergency situation.
“The most important thing I learned from the training was to have a back-up plan in case of an emergency,” Nickole says. “When I heard the snowstorm was coming, I emailed all my caregivers to find out who lived close by and would be available. I made sure I had a generator, batteries for my wheelchair, and at least a week’s supply of food, water and prescription medication.”
Nickole says the training was empowering and reinforced her confidence to face an emergency situation with a disability. She felt better informed about the potential risks people with disabilities could encounter during a disaster. For example, clinics might close, streets and sidewalks might be impassable, or caregivers might be unable to travel.
Preparedness is a mindset
Preparedness means always thinking about what might happen and how it might affect you and those around you, and then taking steps ahead of time to stay safe and healthy. Everyone faces a unique set of risks and has unique needs. People with disabilities – like Nickole – often must rely more on others, especially in emergencies.
For the millions of Americans who have disabilities, events like extreme weather, fires, floods, acts of terrorism, and disease outbreaks present a special set of challenges. One of the important lessons from the response to Hurricane Katrina was that gaps existed in pre-disaster planning among people with disabilities and local emergency management agencies.
While no one can predict every emergency, Ready Now! and other programs like it help people with disabilities and their family members plan ahead to protect themselves. For Nickole, it may have saved her life.
Share Nickole’s story and the following resources with friends, family, and neighbors:
- Disability and Health
- Americans with Disabilities Act Compliance Tip Sheet
- Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) – Disability
- Family Disaster Plan
- CDC Feature: Emergency Preparedness Is Not “One Size Fits All”
Read our other National Preparedness Month blogs:
- The Power of Preparedness
- Small Changes, Big Dividends: A Global Look at Preparedness
- When Preparation Meets Opportunity: Cameroon Gets a Jump on Outbreak Response
- West Nile to Zika: How One Virus Helped New York City Prepare for Another
- Fred the Preparedness Dog—Tails from Kansas
- How to Be Smart (About Preparedness)