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Emergency Preparedness for People who are Blind and Visually Impaired

Emergency Preparedness for People who are Blind and Visually Impaired

Emergency Preparedness and People who are Blind and Visually Impaired: A Handbook for the Consumer

Picture of three rings, one inside the other
The Three Rings Analogy

One of the most difficult issues with regard to pre-event planning for any emergency is the overwhelming amount of information available. The Three Rings Analogy is a simplified means of identifying and explaining disaster preparedness in a manner that encourages step-by-step positive action. It is based on the concept of three concentric rings; with each one set inside the other.

The center-most ring represents you as an individual. What will you need in an emergency? During most emergencies, unless it is a burning building or an unsafe or damaged structure, it is best to stay in place and wait for further instructions from their local emergency management agency. This center ring is the first step - what basic supplies should you have prepared?

The next ring out, is an expansion of this concept; and that is person-in-environment. Do you know what to do if you are at work or at a conference or convention? Where is the nearest exit? What will your family do if you are all separated? Who should you all contact?

The outer-most ring represents community and being active in the community. First responders, emergency planners, local transportation departments and many other officials involved in emergency management, are interested in knowing how best to serve the needs of people with disabilities. This third ring represents us, as blind individuals offering our experience and expertise to aid in their planning process to better serve our neighborhoods and communities.


There are a number of simple things that you, as a visually impaired individual can do to prepare both yourself and your family in the event of a disaster. One of the easiest things you can do to prepare for the unexpected is assemble a supply kit. This would include basic necessities for 72 hours; many of the items are things that you probably have already in and around your home. Consider marking emergency supplies with large print, fluorescent tape or Braille.

1. Three days supply of water (one gallon per day per person). You don't have to go out and buy water. Simply cleaning and refilling old soda bottles or milk jugs and storing them in your home will suffice.

2. Three days supply of non-perishable food (don't forget the can opener). Items such as canned ready-to-eat foods, boxed or canned juices, crackers, cereal, granola bars, or trail mix are all good examples. Be aware of the salt content, as it has the side effect of making you thirsty. Check and replace your foodstuffs every 6 months.

3. Battery Operated or Crank Operated Radio (don't forget extra batteries). It is essential that information gets to you and in times or emergency the radio is often the first source.

4. Flashlight and Plastic Emergency Whistle. Even among the visually impaired a flashlight can offer assistance not only for your mobility but that of someone who might be with you. The flashlight and whistle are both imperative for visibility and signaling purposes. The human voice can only shout at the highest volume for about 4 minutes.

5. First Aid Kit. First Aid kits are available in many locations, but owning one isn't enough. Make sure that you are familiar with the contents and their placement in the kit. You might consider one of the first aid kits Braille-equipped first aid kits offered by GrabPak.

6. Toiletries and a change of clothing. These can include items as simple as toothbrush and toothpaste, hairbrush, toilet paper and garbage bags with ties.

7. Prescriptions & Assistive Devices. Make sure you not only have the medication, but on a separate sheet accessible to you, the names and dosages of the medicines as well as your doctor's contact information. Also include prescription eye-ware, non-prescription medication that you might take regularly, and portable assistive devices (e.g. magnifiers, hearing aids, communication devices). Be very clear that these items are assistive devices and not just "baggage."

8. Cane. Even if you have some useable vision or are guide dog user, a cane can be essential for mobility to help maneuver around obstacles and negotiate and identify barriers.

9. Work Gloves and Sturdy Shoes. After auditory cues, touch is the most heavily relied upon sense for someone who is visually impaired. A pair of heavy work gloves and sturdy shoes can offer safety and security in exploring an unfamiliar environment in addition to the use of a cane.

10. Identification and Important Papers. It is a good idea to put photocopies of important documents in a plastic bag and an accessible version of important numbers. This could include: identification, social security card, health insurance or Medicaid/Medicare cards, home/auto insurance papers, deeds, bank account numbers, contact numbers for your emergency contact person and local emergency numbers.

Note: If you have a service animal or pet, make sure that you have included food and water for your animal as well as bedding and a favorite toy. Also be certain that your service animal has appropriate identification.

No doubt there are many other items that are of utility but the goal of this handbook is simplicity with a focus on items specifically useful for people with visual impairments.

HOT TIP: If putting together your kit seems overwhelming it is possible to purchase a "ready-made" Braille and Large Print Disaster Kits from GrabPak. These kits include customized supplies for those with vision impairments such as a emergency folding cane, instructions in Braille and an LED magnifier. With any emergency kit, you still want to customize it for your own needs.


This ring deals with the person-in-environment and being aware of your surroundings and making plans so that wherever you are, you are informed and prepared.

1. Know alternate transit, transportation and pedestrian routes in your neighborhood and work environments.

2. Know emergency exits of buildings that you are in such as office buildings, apartment/condo complexes and hotels, as well as at conferences and events that you attend.

3. Have a designated family contact or check-in person, preferably someone who is out of state. Local phone lines may be overwhelmed but long distance lines may still operate. Ensure that all family members know the phone number of the contact person or have the number in their possession. Make sure the contact person does not have an unlisted number, in case you are forced to look it up.

4. Create and implement a buddy system. An example: having a reliable designated driver for home, school and work in case you need a ride in the event of an emergency. 70% of assistance after an emergency is made by neighbors, friends or other "buddies."

5. Have a means of writing and taking down information to assist you with communication in the event of an emergency. Have paper, pens and markers, or slate and stylus in your possession in addition to assistive technology and back-up power supplies for your technology. Example: if you are an individual who is deaf/blind, have index cards with pre-printed phrases that you will need to use when communicating with first responders.

6. Keep a copy of Local Emergency Numbers other than 911 easily available. During an emergency 911 will probably be overwhelmed with calls.

7. Practice emergency plans and procedures with your family.

8. If you must evacuate your home, post a message indicating where you have gone, take your emergency kit that contains vital documents and supplies, and make sure that you have a plan for the care of your pets.


1. Ask about specific vulnerabilities for your community.

2. Ask your local Department of Transportation if their emergency evacuation plan accommodates people with disabilities. State and Local governments generally have emergency evacuation plans in place for their jurisdictions. They may or may not be aware of the needs of people with visual impairments.

3. Contact your first responders to explore the creation of a voluntary registry of people with disabilities located within their jurisdiction. Such a directory would give first responders the ability to contact or assist local residents during emergency situations.

4. Talk to your Community emergency management agency about your concerns as a person with a disability. Ask what plans they have for before, during and after a disaster. Keep in mind that response efforts after a disaster are just as important as pre-event planning.

5. Demand pre-event emergency planning information in accessible formats

6. Encourage your community to disseminate information through creative alternatives, such as radio reading services or reverse 911.

7. Work with your own neighborhood to develop a neighborhood evacuation plan. A Neighborhood Emergency Watch could function much like Neighborhood Watch, where neighbors inform each other of emergencies and work with each to ensure the safety of all.

8. Help prepare yourself by contacting your local Red Cross for information and classes. In an emergency, you may need to provide first aid or other assistance, and the Red Cross can provide you with that training.

9. Ask your local media to make sure that all emergency contact information is captioned, and read slowly and repeatedly for people who cannot see the screen.

10. Ask local emergency responders and the Red Cross to ensure they maintain TTY service.

HOT TIP: If you are unsure of who to contact in your community regarding emergency preparedness and people who are blind or visually impaired, contact your local fire department. Your local fire service is usually integral to a community's disaster plans both prior to and after an event and will know who to direct you to.

Credit for article:  American Foundation for the Blind

7 Handy Tips As You Prepare for Hurricane Season

hurricane-pic-1-e1277845338574.jpgHistory teaches that a lack of hurricane preparation is a common thread among all major hurricane disasters. By knowing your vulnerability and what actions you should take, you can reduce the effects of a hurricane disaster. 

There is no better time to prepare for an emergency than now.  As we enter hurricane season (June 1 – November 30), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued their latest 2013 Atlantic hurricane season outlook, expecting yet another very active season.

To help you prepare, the staff at GrabPak wants to offer you these 7 tips:

Prepare for Phone Interruptions

When Hurricane Sandy slammed into the east coast in 2012, it knocked out cell phone towers and land lines and left many without the means to communicate.  Cellular companies can reroute service but these temporary fixes may cause bottlenecks in phone service as the system becomes overwhelmed. Stress and frustration levels increase as phone calls to by concerned friends and family to check on those in harm’s way can’t be completed.

Cell phone users can usually text more successfully than call when a network experiences high volume, like during major disasters, because texting uses less data. Also, while just about everyone has a cell phone nowadays, keep in mind that many (elderly parents might be a good example) are still not familiar with texting may need a tutorial.

Create a Disaster Plan, or Test your Current Plan

Homeowners should consider which valuable objects they will take with them in case of an emergency evacuation. A disaster plan should clearly communicate pre- and post-disaster procedures to any relevant people. For families, that includes near and far relatives and friends. Business owners should communicate disaster plans to employees, customers, vendors, and business partners.  For businesses, the safety of people, such as employees and customers, should be the first procedure.  Your plan should next address how to protect your property and business records.

Check Insurance Policies

It is especially important to review your homeowner's policy with your agent or broker so you understand the amount you will receive in the event of a covered loss, and whether it will be adequate to rebuild your home. Homeowners should also know the amount of a deductible and any special provisions in the policy such as wind and flood exclusions. And include your insurance company's toll free claim number and insurance agent's phone number in your emergency evacuation kit.

Assess Your House for Vulnerabilities

Homeowners should inspect their homes for potential problem areas outside of your house, such as rotting tree limbs.

You should also make sure the roof does not have missing shingles. To safeguard against strong winds, you may have to nail down new shingles. Also check out the patio or deck area and be sure to remove loose objects, like lawn furniture.  If you don’t have a garage or storage shed, consider bringing your lawn furniture into your house.

Some fix-it tasks can be completed over a weekend, such as reinforcing a garage door, vents and a gable, or roof, so water does not leak in. Those living in low lying areas where coastal storms surge should move electronic devices off the ground floor and put heavy furniture on blocks to prevent damage from flooding. Also, homeowners should roll up outdoor rugs and carpets.

Once you’ve taken care of your home, look around your neighborhood for vulnerabilities and potential hazards, such as from neighbors who may be away on vacation. 


Take Videos or Photos of your Home Inventory

For insurance purposes and for your own personal keepsake in case of a disaster, you should have a home inventory or a photographic record.

While you are doing that, you can decide which important items you plan to take with you in case of an evacuation.

Consider Important Supplies

GrabPak recommends each person have a bare minimum of a three-day supply of water and you should store at least one gallon of water per person per day. 

A normally active person needs at least one-half gallon of water daily just for drinking, but sometimes children, nursing mothers, the sick and people in humid or hot regions may require more.

You may also want to check the inventory of your 72-hour survival kit add items you may have overlooked such as prescription medications, contact lens solution, an extra pair of eyeglasses, etc.  

What About your Pets?

During Hurricane Sandy, there were some people who risked their lives and did not evacuate as recommended because they had pets and did not know what to do with their pets. 

If you are going to evacuate with a pet, make sure your hotel or shelter accepts pets.  Many public shelters will not accept pets even if they are small and in carriers.  To learn more about preparing your pet for evacuation, read our article, "Is your pet ready if disaster strikes?"




Snow storm about to hit? Checklist T-minus 24 hours

090129.utility.pole.jpgWhen a Snow Storm Approaches

A severe snow storm could keep you trapped in your house for several days or longer. If you heat with wood, oil, or propane gas, check your fuel supply and call for a delivery before the storm hits. Conserve fuel by keeping your house cooler than usual. Temporarily shut off heat to less-used rooms. Let faucets drip a little to avoid freezing. Be sure smoke detectors are working. And keep a fire extinguisher at the ready.

Assemble Emergency Supplies

Make a trip to the store for supplies before the storm develops. Don't forget essentials, such as prescription medications, extra batteries, first-aid supplies, baby supplies, a week's supply of non-perishable food, and bottled water. High energy food, such as granola or energy bars, dried fruit, nuts, and canned goods that do not require heating are best.

While some feel it is over-reacting to buy a few gallons of water, it is intended for use if a water main becomes damaged or breaks, causing your normal water supply to become contaminated. Plan on a gallon of water per day per person for 3 days.  

Power Outages

Think about what works best if you need to go without electricity for a few days.  Items to keep in mind include a manual can opener, extra blankets and sleeping bags. It's a good idea to make checklist of emergency supplies and keep it stocked in easy-to-carry bags or boxes at all times.  Remember, it is essential to stay nourished and hydrated so your body can produce its own heat; especially if you go outside to shovel snow or to assist others.

If your furnace goes out, close off any rooms that aren't needed. Stuff towels in cracks and under doors to prevent heat loss. Cover windows with blankets at night. Having a safe alternative source of heat is essential. Keep an ample supply of wood for the fireplace or a kerosene space heater with extra heating fuel.

Using portable space heaters or generators during a power outage creates a new of hazards to keep in mind.  Be sure to read the GrabPak blog post, The Silent Killer During Power Outages for additional safety tips.

Lastly, stay tuned to your local news radio channel with a portable battery-operated radio for weather updates.


The Ultimate Smartphone Disaster Preparedness App List


The tools on this page are designed to provide mobile device users access to web-based content. They are developed to run on specific mobile platforms, such as iOS (iPhone), Android or BlackBerry.

  • Native or standalone apps deliver content to a mobile device and do not require internet connectivity to view and use the content.
  • Web Apps link a mobile device user to content that requires internet connectivity to access and use.
  • Mobile Web is a link to a mobile optimized or mobile enhanced Web site, which is a reformatted version of a website that is easier to read on a mobile device.
Keep in mind that cell phones may not function during and immediately following a disaster due to a high volume of activity; however, text messages can often get through, even if you can't make calls on your cell phone. 

Keep a few spare quaters handy. If cell phones aren’t functional, using a landline or a payphone (to call your out-of-state contact) is a good alternative.

Disaster Medicine Tools

Icon Mobile Access Description
BlackBerry Web App 
WISER (Wireless Information System for Emergency Responders) from the National Library of Medicine assists first responders in Hazmat incidents, with features including substance identification support, containment and suppression advice, and medical treatment information.
REMM Mobile App Icon REMM
BlackBerry Web App
REMM (Radiation Emergency Medical Management) from theNational Library of Medicine provides guidance about clinical diagnosis and treatment of radiation injuries during radiological and nuclear emergencies.
MedlinePlus Mobile Icon MedlinePlus 
Mobile Web
MedlinePlus mobile enhanced web page from the National Library of Medicine provides access to consumer-oriented health information on disaster topics in English and Spanish.
PubMed Mobile Icon PubMed 
Mobile Web 
PubMed for Handhelds
PubMed Mobile from the National Library of Medicine provides access to more than 21 million citations for biomedical literature from MEDLINE, life science journals, and online books.
LactMed App LactMed 
LactMed from the National Library of Medicine app provides access information about maternal and infant drug levels and possible effects of vaccines and radiologic agents on lactation and on breastfed infants.
BioAgent Facts Icon BioAgent Facts 
BioAgent Facts from the Center for Biosecurity of the University Pittsburgh Medical Center provides facts about pathogens that could cause serious disease resulting from a natural epidemic or use as a biological weapon.
CBR Mobile Icon Clinicians' Biosecurity Resource 
Clinicians' Biosecurity Resource from the Center for Biosecurity of the University Pittsburgh Medical Center provides clinicians with detailed information and recommended treatments for the most dangerous potential bioweapons.
PFA Mobile Icon PFA Mobile 
PFA Mobile from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs,National Center for PTSD, in partnership with The National Child Traumatic Stress Network, the DoD's National Center for Telehealth & Technology (T2), and the VA's Patient Care Services, assists responders who provide psychological first aid as part of an organized response effort. The materials are adapted from the Psychological First Aid Field Operations Guide.
PTSD App Icon PTSD Coach
PTSD Coach app from the Department of Veterans Affairsprovides users with information about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), including educational resources, information about professional care, a self-assessment tool, opportunities to find support, and tools to help manage the stresses of daily life with PTSD.
mTBI App Icon mTBI Pocket Guide
mTBI (Tramautic Brain Injury) Pocket Guide app from theNational Center for Telehealth & Technology provides access to clinical guidelines for assessing and treating service members and Veterans who have sustained a mild TBI.
Red Cross First Aid App Icon First Aid by American Red Cross 
First Aid from the American Red Cross provides free lifesaving first aid instruction and disaster preparedness information including videos, interactive quizzes and simple step-by-step advice.
CPR App Icon Pocket First Aid & CPR 
Pocket First Aid & CPR from the American Heart Associationprovides quick, concise and clear first aid and CPR instructions from a user’s smartphone. This app costs $1.99.
CPR Hands Only App Icon Hands-Only™ CPR 
Palm Pre
Hands-Only™ CPR from the American Heart Association provides quick instructions for CPR without mouth-to-mouth breaths.
Med Field Ops App Icon Med Field Ops 
Mobile Medical Unit Field Operations Guide was developed for the Northern New England Metropolitan Response System but is applicable to other response teams such as MRC, CERT, DMAT and others. The app contains access to packing lists, deployment guidelines, treatment reference, and more.

Other Disaster Resources

App Icon App Download Description
Reunite Icon ReUnite 
ReUnite from the National Library of Medicine provides ability to upload missing and found person information for family reunification during and after disasters. It provides structured information to the NLM's People Locator service.
MyMedList icon MyMedList 
MyMedList from the National Library of Medicine allows users to electronically manage their medication list(s). Medication lists can be e-mailed or printed, can serve as a reminder for taking medications, or be shown as reference information in doctor’s offices or hospitals.
Mobile Web
TOXNET from the National Library of Medicine is an easy to use, mobile-optimized Web interface covering toxicology, hazardous chemicals, environmental health and related areas.
Health Hotlines Icon Health Hotlines 
Health Hotlines from the National Library of Medicine provides access to directory of health organizations with toll-free telephone numbers.
Mobile Web
Centers for Disease Control (CDC) app and web page provides health and safety information related to emergencies and disasters.
EPA Mobile Icon EPA
Mobile Web
Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) mobile enhanced web page identifies nearby industrial facilities and toxic chemical releases as reported through the Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) Program. (Select the "learn about your environment" tab)
Mobile Web
FEMA app and mobile enhanced web page provide government disaster response information.
American Red Cross Earthquake Mobile App Icon Earthquake - American Red Cross
Earthquake - American Red Cross app from the American Red Cross provides step-by-step instructions on what to do before/during/after an earthquake. It also includes an "I'm Safe" feature to notify family and friends that you are okay.
American Red Cross Hurricane Mobile App Icon Hurricane by American Red Cross
Hurricane by American Red Cross app from the American Red Cross provides access to local and real time information on what to do before, during and after hurricanes, including an "I'm safe" messaging alert.
ARC Shelters Mobile App Icon American Red Cross: Shelter View
American Red Cross: Shelter View app from the American Red Cross maps the locations and shelters from the American Red Cross National Shelter System (NSS).
ARC SOS Mobile App Icon SOS
SOS app from the American Red Cross provides step-by-step video narration and follow along demonstrations allowing people to quickly and confidently respond to common emergency situations with the goal of saving lives.

Information about Hazardous Events, Disasters, and Disease Outbreaks

App Icon App Download Description
Nationa Hurricane Center Mobile Icon National Hurricane Center
Mobile Web
National Hurricane Center mobile enhanced web page provides access to critical hurricane advisories and marine forecasts.
National Weather Service App Icon National Weather Service 
Mobile Web
National Weather Service mobile enhanced web page provides weather, hydrologic, and climage forecasts and warnings for the United States.
Pacific Disaster Center Icon Disaster Alert 
Disaster Alert developed by Pacific Disaster Center provides access to information in both a list and on an interactive map about active hazards occurring around the globe.
Outbreaks Near Me App Icon Outbreaks Near Me
Outbreaks Near Me developed by HealthMap provides real-time, searchable disease outbreak information for your neighborhood on interactive maps.
CDC FluView Mobile App Icon FluView 
FluView developed by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracks influenza-like illness activity levels across the U.S.

Apps for Disasters in Libraries

Icon Mobile Access Description
LibraryFloods Icon LibraryFloods 
LibraryFloods from the National Library of Medicine covers basic steps for recovering collections after a water emergency in your library.
Emergency Response and Salvage  Icon ERS: Emergency Response and Salvage 
ERS: Emergency Response and Salvage from the National Center for Preservation Technology and Traning outlines critical stages of disaster response for damage to collections and significant records. It is based on the Heritage Preservation's Emergency Response and Salvage Wheel.

Other Apps and Mobile Tools
Most of the major mobile device app stores or markets have many choices for additional apps useful for disaster and emergency purposes. Some suggestions include apps for:

  • Flashlights
  • Twitter keyboards with commonly used phrases and hashtags
  • ICE ("In Case of Emergency" contact lists)
  • Flood and water level information
  • Earthquake interactive mapping
  • Disaster preparedness kits - Grabpak.com is an excellent source for this
  • Prescription drug information

How to Keep Pets Safe During a Hurricane

If you have pets and live in an area where Hurricane Sandy is going to make an impact, it is just as important to know what to do to keep them safe as it is for keeping yourself and  family safe.  Some families have dealt with treacherous weather in the past, already having a good knowledge of how to keep pets safe, but if you have never experienced a hurricane before, these tips and ways to prepare will help ensure that your pets remain calm, collected, and most importantly, safe.

Prepare Your Pets Now!
Preparation really is key to making sure your pets get through a hurricane safely, starting with making sure your dogs and cats have proper identification.   

  • Put the rabies tag and identification tag on your pets collar.
  • Make sure all vaccinations are up to date.  If they are not, try to schedule a quick appointment.
  • Take a current photo of your pets and put them in an area that will remain dry, along with contact information for their vet.    storm-cat.jpg
  • Make a sign with a description of the pet, the name and age, and place it in a window, just in case the pet does go missing.
  • Have a list of places that you can evacuate to that allows pets.

Keep Pets Safe at Home
If you will be riding out the storm at home, there are few things you can do to ensure the safety of your dogs and cats.

  • Dogs – Prepare an area where the dog will be safest, like in the basement or a room with few windows.  Make sure to have the following items: food and water bowl, blankets, dog’s bed and favorite toy, at least 3 days worth of food and water, medications, plastic bags for waste clean-up, harness, and the leash.
  • Cats – The same list applies, however, include extra litter (or newspaper to shred instead of litter), as well as a cat carrier to keep them from roaming into a dangerous area of the home.

If Evacuation is Necessary
If you reside in an area where evacuation is imminent, there are a few things to keep in mind in order to keep your pets safe.

  • Always bring your pets with you, never leave them at home, since you never know the duration or severity of the danger.
  • Pack an emergency evacuation kit in advance, consisting of bowls, food, water, treats, favorite toy, bed or blanket to sleep on, harness, leash, any medications or first aid, a photo of the pet, veterinarian contact information, garbage bags, towels, make sure the pet is wearing its collar with rabies tag and identification tag with up-to-date phone number to reach if lost.  If you have cats, make sure you pack the litter box and extra litter or shredded newspaper.

Always take every precaution when it comes to the safety of your pets, from being prepared in advance to knowing where to go in case of evacuation.  Our pets rely on us as their owners to keep them safe and calm.

If you have other tips or suggestions on how to keep pets safe during a hurricane, please leave a comment!

Is your pet ready if disaster strikes?


raincoatcat.jpgThere's no way of knowing how many beloved pets were left behind when Hurricane Katrina forced mass evacuations in New Orleans.  Grim estimates indicate 70,000 pets remained in the city during the storm; of those, about 15,000 were rescued and only 2,900 eventually reunited with their owners.

The Humane Society of the United States strongly recommends all pet owners have a disaster preparedness plan in place for pets. This includes plans for pet shelter and a basic disaster kit of essential survival items which will enable you to keep your pet comfortable.



When people are displaced from their homes into evacuation centers, they often wish to bring pets with them. It makes sense as for many, their pet is part of the family.  Also, having a pet nearby may serve as a source of comfort to someone who has lost their possessions.

Unfortunately, many disaster evacuation centers (and specifically Red Cross evacuation centers) cannot accept pets because of health and safety regulations. Pets kept at human evacuation centers can sometimes pose a risk of disease or injury to other shelter inhabitants. In fact, service animals that assist people with disabilities are currently the only animals allowed in some evacuation centers.

Animal evacuation centers and foster homes may accommodate animals while owners reside in temporary evacuation centers, but these services may not be available everywhere. Facing the stress of an evacuation is difficult enough without having to worry about your pet’s safety too.

So what is a pet owner to do? Start planning now.  The key to survival during a disaster, crisis or emergency is to be as prepared as possible before disaster strikes. Take the time to make proper plans and assemble an emergency kit for you and your pet and you will greatly increase your pet's chances of survival.

Here’s a short list of “to-do” items to prepare for your pet’s safety and comfort

1.   Get a friend or relative outside the evacuation area to take your pets, and preferably you, too. If that's not possible, try locating a pet friendly motel or one that waives animal prohibitions during evacuations.  Jot down the contact information and keep it in your survival kit.

2.   Prepare a list of boarding facilities and veterinarians who could shelter animals in an emergency; include 24-hour phone numbers.

3.   You may not be home when the evacuation order comes; find out if a trusted neighbor would be willing to take your pets and meet you at a prearranged location.



Pet-friendly evacuation sheltering can be planned and executed in a multitude of ways. In some communities, the human evacuation shelter is within the same room, facility, or campus as accommodations for pets. This allows the animals' owners to have a large role in caring for the pet. In other communities, the human shelter and pet shelter may be in separate locations. In this case, evacuees are told where to bring their pets, while they will be staying at a shelter for people.

If you will need to go to a pet friendly shelter during an evacuation, make sure you have the following items ready to go for your pet: a leash and collar, a crate, a supply of food and water, your pets' vaccination records, medications, and written instructions for feeding and administering medication. If your favorite four-legged friend is feline, be sure you bring kitty-litter and an appropriate container, too.

The Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act (PETS Act) of 2006 requires local and state emergency preparedness authorities to include in their evacuation plans how they will accommodate household pets and service animals in the event of a major disaster. Local and state authorities must submit these plans in order to qualify for grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Currently, not all communities offer pet friendly emergency/evacuation shelters. To find out if there is a pet friendly shelter in your area, call your county emergency management office or local animal shelter.

In addition to seeking appropriate shelter for your beloved pet, Grabpak.com offers MeowPak and BarkPak, which are products designed with the essential provisions necessary to keep your beloved kitty or pup safe and provide them with exactly what they will need to survive in an emergency or disaster. 

12 Emergency Preparedness Tips for Families with Kids

Dealing with survival and preparedness issues when there are young children in the household can be a challenge.  planning-fam.jpg

Not only must parents and caregivers deal with their own stressful circumstances, they must also deal with the fears and emotions of youngsters who may not fully understand the chaos and the changes that are going on around them.  Believe it – children can rationalize and feel the emotions and body language of the adults around them.

A common mistake when prepping is to place too much emotional responsibility on the shoulders of children.  It is our job as adults to help them so that when things do not go as planned, they can understand and behave in a proper manner.  Do not assume that the kids are not interested or worse, unable to understand. In reality, they have an innate curiosity and even though they may only understand a fraction of what you share with them, they will soak it up like a sponge.


1.  Include children in family preparedness discussions.  Explain what you are talking about in a calm, assured manner and answer questions honestly and simply.  Focus the conversation on the safety issues that will insure their survival.

2. Regardless of their age, teach young children to memorize their basic personal information such as full name, address, telephone number, and the names of their parents or guardians.  This will be invaluable in the event they become separated from their family following a disaster.

3. Learn the disaster response policies of your child’s school or daycare center.  Be sure to establish a backup plan so that someone is available to pick them up and/or care for them if you are unable to do so.  A good idea would be to have the backup person check on them, regardless, just to be sure.  (After all, you may be hurt and unable to call the backup person yourself.)

4. Make sure the school or daycare center has current emergency contact information for your children.  They should also have a list of persons authorized to pick your children up from school.  The last thing you want is for a kidnapper to take advantage of the chaos and snatch your child away for some nefarious reason.

5. Set more than one family meeting site and make sure your child knows where it is.  This will help if you cannot return to your home.

6. Establish an out-of-state contact person and make sure that your child and the school knows how to reach this person.  Remember that although local phone lines may be down, long distance circuits often will be working following a disaster.

7.  Teach your children how to use 911 and practice what they should say to the dispatcher when they do call.

8. Educate your children regarding the need to stay away from downed trees, downed utility poles and any wires that may be lying on the ground.  Also teach them to recognize the smell of gas and – this is important – to tell an adult they smell gas even if they are not 100% sure.  Include instructions to get outdoors and leave the home or building if they even think they smell gas.

9. Practice evacuation strategies and evacuation routes as a family project.  Make an outing of it and while you don’t want to diminish the importance of the practice mission, make it fun as well.

10. If you live in an earthquake or other natural disaster zone, teach them basic responses such as Drop, Cover and Hold or Stop, Drop and Roll.

11. Prepare a small emergency bag for each child.  Of course, you can start with the Grabpak for Kids. Include a family picture, favorite toys and games, book or puzzle to keep him or her occupied. 

12. In the family emergency kit, include copies of the children’s birth certificates, recent photos and additional shelf-stable child comfort foods.

About the author:

David Fisher is owner and operator of Grabpak.com – America’s Best Engineered Emergency Survival Kits.  PLease visit us online for more articles of family emergency preparedness and to check out the Grabpak product line.

The biggest challenge in emergency preparedness

A comprehensive survey that takes an in-depth look at American attitudes and concerns with regard to emergency preparedness and response conducted by Zogby International for Federal Signal Corporation, uncovered a shocking level of apathy Americans have for putting an emergency plan in place and having supplies on hand if they need to act quickly when their safety is threatened.

The firm’s 2012 public safety survey,which hones in on the emotional reactions of citizens to disaster and emergency situations and evaluates the level of apathy towards public safety, notifications and alerts found that, despite an increase in the number of disasters, too many Americans remain disturbingly complacent.  Consequently, many people fail to act with a sense of urgency in times of crisis, which not only compounds the efforts of emergency personnel, but will inevitably lead to tragic results.

lazybones.jpgComplacency toward emergency preparedness has been a problem for many years, but more than just a few preparedness officials and authorities say it’s a problem that has grown worse in recent years, despite significant natural disasters in regions that are prone to severe weather like hurricanes and tornadoes.

In 2011, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) issued 99 major disaster declarations that were officially recognized by state governors and the president. Federal Signal said this “is a shocking figure compared to the annual average of just 37 over the past 50 years. Yet despite this record-breaking year, the public still remains surprisingly apathetic to emergency notification warnings and unprepared for potential disaster scenarios.”

The latest survey found that while more than 56 percent of Americans believe they are aware of the steps they need to take should disaster strike; the results uncover a shocking lack of knowledge and even indifference, regarding emergency alerts and notification systems.

Equally as disturbing, only 47 percent of Americans would be motivated to take action during a warning of potential severe weather, and 28 percent would require confirmation of severe weather, such as an actual tornado sighting, flood waters or a visible fire in order to take immediate action.

do-it-now.jpgAs we say over and over, don’t wait until it’s too late.  Do it now!  Have an emergency plan in place and a 72-hour emergency kit tucked away in your car or in a location where you can quickly grab it.  Remember, if you are ever faced with a dire emergency situation, you’ll greatly increase the likelihood of a positive outcome if you are prepared. 


Mark you calendars for April 9th: FEMA Webinar about Emergency FInancial Preparedness

freewebinar.jpgBack in November, I published an article titled, The Most Overlooked Items When Preparing For Disaster  which addressed the importance of archiving and storing important financial documents in preparation for evacuation.  Going into greater detail on this topic, FEMA is offering a free webinar about getting your vital records and finances prepared for an emergency.  The webinar takes place on April 9, at 3:00 pm EDT.

Participants will learn more about financial tools and guidance that protects consumer rights as disaster survivors. Financial experts will provide updates on new tools and resources and previews of financial preparedness tools under development.

More about registering for the webinar at http://www.ready.gov/community-preparedness-webinar-series-financial-preparation

Take action today to learn how financial preparedness will help you recover faster after a disaster.

Should you stay or should you go? Evaluating your shelter options in an emergency

stay-or-go-now.jpgDepending on your circumstances and the nature of the emergency, you may face the need to decide whether you stay where you are or evacuate. You should understand and plan for both possibilities, and use common sense and available information to determine if there is an immediate danger.

In any emergency, local authorities may or may not immediately be able to provide information on what is happening and what you should do. However, you should watch TV, listen to the radio or check the Internet often for information or official instruction as it becomes available.  However, if accurate information is not forthcoming, having a plan already in place will make your sheltering decision easier.

Sheltering is appropriate when conditions require that you seek protection in your home, place of employment or other location when disaster strikes. Sheltering outside the hazard area could include staying with friends and relatives, seeking commercial lodging or staying in a public evacuation facility operated by disaster relief groups.

Hunkering down where you are and staying put

Choosing to take shelter immediately in your current location is necessary in many emergencies. Whether you are at home, work or elsewhere, there may be situations when it's simply best to stay where you are and avoid any uncertainty outside.

To effectively shelter, you must first consider the hazard and then choose a place in your home or other building that will keep you safe from that hazard. As an example, for a tornado, a room should be selected that is in a basement or an interior room on the lowest level away from corners, windows, doors and outside walls.

The length of time you are required to shelter may be short, such as during a tornado warning, or extended, such as during a winter storm or a pandemic. You and your shelter mates should take turns listening to radio broadcasts and maintain a 24-hour safety watch until local authorities say it is safe to leave.

During extended periods of sheltering, you will need to manage water and food supplies to ensure you and your family have the required supplies and quantities.  For more info on these topics, check out two of our previous blog entries about water safety and food safety.


Shelter safety for sealed rooms

There may be circumstances when staying put requires creating a barrier between yourself and potentially contaminated air outside, a process known as "sealing the room," is a matter of survival.


Use common sense and available information to assess the situation and determine if there is immediate danger. If you see large amounts of debris in the air, or if local authorities say the air is badly contaminated or smoky, you may want to take this kind of action.

Ten square feet of floor space per person will provide sufficient air to prevent carbon dioxide build-up for up to five hours, assuming a normal breathing rate while resting.

However, local officials are unlikely to recommend the public shelter in a sealed room for more than 2-3 hours because the effectiveness of such sheltering diminishes with time as the contaminated outside air gradually seeps into the shelter. At this point, evacuation from the area is the better protective action to take.

Also you should ventilate the shelter when the emergency has passed to avoid breathing contaminated air still inside the shelter.

The process used to seal the room is considered a temporary protective measure to create a barrier between you and potentially contaminated air outside. It is a type of sheltering in place that requires preplanning.

  • Bring your family and pets inside.
  • Lock doors, close windows, air vents and fireplace dampers.
  • Turn off fans, air conditioning and forced air heating systems.
  • Take your emergency supply kit
  • Go into an interior room with few windows, if possible.
  • Seal all windows, doors and air vents with 2-4 millimeter thick plastic sheeting and duct tape. Consider measuring and cutting the sheeting in advance to save time.
  • Cut the plastic sheeting several inches wider than the openings and label each sheet.
  • Duct tape plastic at corners first and then tape down all edges.
  • Be prepared to improvise and use what you have on hand to seal gaps so that you create a barrier between yourself and any contamination.
  • Local authorities may not immediately be able to provide information on what is happening and what you should do. However, you should watch TV, listen to the radio or check the Internet often for official news and instructions as they become available.


evac.jpgGoing to an Evacuation Shelters

If disaster strikes, community emergency services and government agencies may not be able to respond promptly to your needs. Their buildings, equipment, personnel, communications, and mobility may be severely hampered by the event. At a minimum, they will be overwhelmed. Even though public evacuation shelters often provide water, food, medicine and basic sanitary facilities, they may not be set up to accommodate the needs of those in the shelter for a number of hours. You should plan to take your GrabPak 72-hour emergency kit with you so you will have immediate access to the supplies, food and water you may want or require.

Mass care sheltering can involve living with many people in a confined space, which can be challenging.  Keep in mind that pets are often not permitted in public shelters and other arrangements should be set ahead of time in your emergency plan  to ensure their safety.  Additional information can be found here on preparing for a pet evacuation.  Also, keep in mind that alcoholic beverages, smoking and weapons are forbidden in emergency shelters.

Plan to stay longer than one night. Bring bedding, toiletries, medication, and any special survival items not typically included in your emergency kit such as a child’s teddy bear, an iPod or other personal items for you and your crew to pass time.



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