I moved into this rental house a few months ago. I’m pretty familiar with it obviously by now and we have a few items ready to go in an emergency but I hadn’t thought about where I would take shelter. Makiko was eating dinner (with a special treat) and I got the notification to “TAKE SHELTER NOW!” I looked it up real fast online and indeed saw that we needed to take shelter. I spent about 3 sec thinking about where to take shelter, realized all rooms had windows, so I picked up the phone and called my handy dandy resource for everything, my Mom. We chatted for less than a minute and then off to a closet we went. My house is pretty open and we have windows in every room, even the bathroom, with no closed halls.
When I decided that we were headed to the closet, I called Makiko to come and she came IMMEDIATELY. Now that’s some good training. She loves her dinner, especially when she has a little treat topper, so that really impressed me. We hung out in the closet with pillows as Facebook notifications came in, more emergency alerts, texts from Mom and one of my best friends, and we just watched the storm pass online. When the hail hit, that was intense. Tennis ball sized hail was reported and the tornado did touch town about 30 mins from us. Once we got the all clear, we stayed in there a little longer and then went out to the living room, where I am now typing this as I hear lots of emergency vehicle sirens going off outside. Praying that everything turns out ok.
Oh, did I mention that we did this all without electricity?
With all this in mind, I wanted to share a few tips that I had heard throughout the years for people with low vision or blindness in emergencies. This list isn’t for tornado specific emergencies but rather can be applied to many situations.
- If you have a guide dog or service dog, make sure to take their leash to the closet or wherever with you. You don’t know how the dog will react if it gets pretty serious and this can keep the dog safe and with you.
- If your service dog gets panicked and is unable to work out of the emergency situation, such as a fire, have a backup plan such as knowing where the emergency exit is and just going as fast as possible by feeling walls, etc., or if possible, heel your dog beside you and use sighted guide.
- Know where the closest exits are in any building. Remember if you rely on audible cues to help you navigate a situation (such as the sound of a coffee maker, you may not be able to use these if the electricity is out etc.
- Have a few contacts in your phone listed as Emergency Contacts so that others can find them easily if they need to call someone on your behalf.
- Make sure you know where the fire alarms are and how to activate them. There are many different kinds of alarms, some you have to break through to activate the alarm. This can be challenging for a sighted person and definitely for someone with a visual impairment in an emergency.
- If you work, have someone that you trust that will be your buddy if you need help getting out
- Know how to use the emergency button in an elevator, or at least where it is.
- Make sure you keep your necessary assistive devices and medication in one place so that you know how to get them, if you have the chance to, in a hurry. Make sure to know your pharmacy info in case you have to get a prescription filled if you are evacuated, etc.
- Know where the gas and water shut offs are in your home and how to use them
- Grab your cane, even if you are a guide dog user, if possible on your way out. (Obviously if it was a fire, you wouldn’t probably have time to do this, but if you are evacuating or have a little time, this is smart)
- If you have to evacuate, make sure you take everything you will need for at least 3 days for yourself and your service animal, including food, water, a toy, and a portable bed. .
Emergency situations can be scary for anyone, especially if you have a disability. The American Red Cross and local disability organizations often have tips as well about how to prepare for an emergency.