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Second Sense - Beyond Vision Loss

Emergency Preparedness:  Are You Ready?

August 15, 2018 | 1 Comment

by Rachael Eschbach, COMS

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An emergency kit: Backpack with spare cane, baggie of dog food, first aid kit, food, flashlight, medication and water.


Imagine this scenario: You’re home alone and the smoke alarm goes off.  You smell what you think could be smoke.  Your vision is not good enough to check around to see what’s up.  What do you do?

Of course, we all know we should be calling 911 to have the fire department arrive on the scene, but do you know how to evacuate your home quickly and safely?  Believe it or not, orientation and mobility skills are important in this situation even if you are not an independent traveler.  I always talk about getting around out of the home safely with all of our Second Sense mobility clients.  Here are a few suggestions for making sure you can get to a safe place in the event you need to leave your home in an emergency.


Connect with Your Local First Responders

Check with your local government agency, police or fire department to let them know you have a disability.  Many municipalities have emergency registries where people with special needs are tagged with specific information about their circumstances.  For residents of the city of Chicago, the Emergency Assistance Voluntary Registry provides this service.


Clear Paths

Make sure all pathways are clear to exits.  If smoke happens to be thick, even with good vision, you may not see obstacles in your way.


Be Familiar with the Terrain around Your Property

You may be able to walk out your front door, but can you walk a safe distance away from your home, perhaps across the street?  If you have a long driveway out to the street, can you navigate that stretch to safety?  Become familiar with the area around your home including the backyard and sides of your house in case you need to leave through a rear door.

Practice routes from front and rear exits.  Doing so with a family member to guide you and provide cues to where you are, will help you eliminate a little stress in a very stressful situation because you have practiced before.  Family members, too, will know what routes you may have traveled around your home to get to safety.

If you live in an apartment, knowing how to navigate stairs is imperative.  In emergency situations, elevators should not be used.  Know where the fire emergency staircase is and become familiar with the number of stairs, landings and other landmarks that can help you with your orientation.


Protective Techniques

Using your hands and arms in specific ways can help prevent injury.  If you are not familiar with these techniques, please give me a call to learn how.


Emergency Bag

An emergency bag can hold essential items you may need in case you are not able to get back into your home for a few or several days.

Include items such as:

  • spare white cane
  • medications
  • water
  • non-perishable food
  • low vision aids
  • flashlight
  • whistle has excellent information on things you may want to include.  A backpack with these items will help you travel hands free.  Make sure your emergency kit is handy and easily accessible.

Don’t forget about your guide dog.  Guide Dog Users, Inc. (GDUI) has excellent suggestions on what to put in your emergency kit for your guide.  GDUI suggests including an info sheet about your guide dog and a photo to assist first responders in case your guide is injured or you are separated.


Plan with Your Family

Talk with your family about an emergency plan including where you will go in certain situations.  For example, if the house is on fire, designate a neighbor’s house where you will meet up.  Let your family members know where your emergency bag is located and its contents.  Make sure you and your family members all have an “in case of emergency” (ICE) person listed in the contacts on your phone.

Taking these precautions can be a help in a stressful emergency situation.  You will eliminate wasted time and be able to leave your home more quickly when you have prepared ahead of time.  If you need orientation to your home area or would like to improve your mobility skills, I am here to provide the training you need to help you feel more comfortable.  You are also welcome to attend our upcoming safety workshop, “Hope for the Best, Prepare for the Worst” on October 18 from 1:00 to 3:00 pm.  Call our front desk at 312-236-8569 or email me to register.


Rachael is a Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist and is the mobility instructor at Second Sense.

1 comment on “Emergency Preparedness:  Are You Ready?”

  1. Thanks for your advice about connecting with the local emergency departments as soon as the person is disabled. This is the reason why I’m checking the local emergency contact numbers. It wouldn’t be nice if we have to Google them on the spot when there’s an emergency.

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