Washington, DCApril 2018

Florida Families – Irma #ASDPlan

Don’t be scared. Be prepared. Have an #ASDPlan!

Recovery after a huge natural disaster is difficult for anyone and that especially includes our families living with autism.  We want your family to be prepared ahead of time and not be caught off guard.  Don’t panic but just be smart. Below are some practical tips on how to prepare for the storm without panic.

  1. GET OUT! It is better to evacuate to a hotel room outside of the Hurricane Zone than to be in your home. Plan to get out of harms way.  Do not be fooled if the storm drops in intensity after passing over the islands. They can quickly grow into serious storms once they hit warm water again. Be sure to leave 24 hours room for evacuating in case traffic is bad.
  2. IF YOU GO TO A SHELTER! Let shelter officials know that you will need quiet space. Ask them when you arrive to let you speak to the person in charge. Advocate for your family. We are working with the Red Cross on this but change is slow.  They will have disability advocates on hand after the storm. If you are registered with us, we will be able to get your information to them.
  3. OTHER AUTISM FAMILIES IN YOUR AREA! Be your brother’s keeper.  Like Unlocking Autism – United States on Facebook. Spread the information on social media, encourage them to pre-register and call them to ensure they make solid plans as well. Check on your neighbors – especially elderly neighbors. Help where you can.
  4. PRE-REGISTER! You can pre- register with Unlocking Autism’s #ASDPlan here for Hurricane Irma. This will allow us to check on you after the storm. If your home is in the disaster zone then also take the time now to pre-register with FEMA. Be sure to include your cell phone and email. Cell phones may be the only way we can reach you after the event via texting.
  5. CALL YOUR MORTGAGE COMPANY! Call your mortgage company to ensure your insurance policy is in-tact. Ask their advice on how to handle and let them know you are in the path of the storm. When a storm hits they can often defer your mortgage payments for several months and help pay for
  6. HOTEL RESERVATIONS! Book now in a hotel that has a micro-kitchen available to it if possible so you can store food and prepare your child’s special meals if they have restricted diets or only eat certain foods. The farther away from the storm the better – not just inland but out of the path. If your home is in the disaster zone FEMA may pay the bills so it is better to secure it now!
  7. NATURAL SUPPORTS! If you have family or friends that you could go stay with well out of harm’s way, call them now and ask them if you can evacuate to their homes. Give them time to prepare for your arrival. Irma’s path is still unpredictable so we are encouraging families living with autism to get off of the panhandle.
  8. GAS! Gas up your vehicles now before the lines get long. If you have more than one vehicle and could be in a flood zone evacuate with those vehicles. It lets you pack more things.
  9. PACK! Make sure you have these things packed and ready to go:
    1. CLOTHING: All of the essentials you will need for up to 3 weeks with regard to clothes. Pack some detergent so you can wash clothes.
    2. TOILETING NEEEDS: Diapers and wipes, if needed.
    3. FOOD: Your child’s special foods that are easy to prepare. Supplies for your family. If you have room, bring a microwave with you in case your hotel doesn’t have one and an ice chest.
    4. WATER: Bottled water
    5. DOCUMENTS: Birth certificates, social security cards, Home insurance papers, IEPs and medical records as needed. If you keep things in a safety deposit box, go get them. Passports, etc. Pack any of your child’s evaluations. This will allow for a smooth transition into a school system if you are unable to return home. Here is a page to learn about your rights if you have to enroll your child elsewhere after.
    6. MEDICINE: Call your doctors now and ask them to give you a new prescription if possible and make sure your prescription is located at a pharmacy where it can be retrieved from whatever city you evacuate to. If your child has urgent additional medical needs, research doctors where you are headed or ask your treating physicians for referrals.
    7. SPECIAL ITEMS: Be sure to bring whatever items your child/individual with autism needs to stay calm in a new environment including your electronics, PECs cards, weighted blankets. If you are going to be in a shelter, bring noise cancelling headphones as well.
    8. PETS: If you have pets, make plans to bring them. Go get cages if needed to stay with others or for hotels. Pack food for them as well.
    9. MEMORABLIA: Bring special items that you want to have with you – photos, scrapbooks, children’s art projects, heirlooms, any special item that you would want to save.
    10. CASH: Disaster zones will revert to a cash economy following a natural disaster because electricity may be out for weeks. Take money out of the bank that you can keep with you.
    11. EVACUATION ROUTE: Try to find a route that you can take that keeps you off of Interstates. Most people will try to evacuate by Interstate. Smaller highways might get you where you need to go faster.
  10. PREPARE YOUR HOME! Get your house read by following these basic plans:
    1. SECURE YOUR HOME: Board up windows and doors as needed. Go get plywood now. Ask for help if you need it because everyone will be busy preparing their own homes. Before you leave shut of your breakers for electricity and turn off gas.
    2. SECURE YOUR YARD: Remove things from your yard that can become projectiles and put them inside your house or storeroom.
    3. SECURE HOUSEHOLD ITEMS: Move things to a higher floor or the attic if you will be in a flood zone. Waterproof things in plastic storage bins, Garbage bags or Ziplocs.
    4. SANDBAGS: Ask for help if you need help with this from a neighbor but use sandbags around your doors and low window areas. Pay attention to storm surge forecasts and flood zones.
    5. CHECK YOUR HOME’s ELEVATION HERE: You need to know what level of risk you face with storm flooding projections. This link will let you know your elevation.
    6. WATER: Get several cases of bottled water that you can use upon return to the home. Enough for 3 weeks. You can also make big ice in your freezers now to keep things cool. Be sure to clean your bathtubs and fill them with water so you have that to clean and flush toilets.
    7. FOOD: Stock up on canned food that you can use when you return home that is easy to heat and prepare. Put it on a higher floor in plastic containers. Don’t pack perishable items if possible
    8. GRILL and CHARCOAL: Make sure you have a grill and charcoal stashed for meal preparation after the storm during recovery. Go to the Dollar Tree and buy sterno. It is your friend.
    9. REFRIGERATORS/FREEZERS: Throw away the perishable items you can’t use before the storm. Try to cook what you can now ahead of the storm. Right before you leave put all food items in the fridge and freezer in garbage bags. If you lose electricity and can’t get home for several days or a week or more, your nose will thank us.  It makes it easier to grab inside and pull it out and saves your fridge from molding over.
    10. TAKE PICTURES: Take pictures of every angle of every room in your home and email them to yourself. This will allow you to take an inventory of what you have so that you can be reimbursed after the event through your insurance company and demonstrate the prior condition of your home.
    11. RECOVERY ITEMS: Store masks, mold spray, a spray container, bleach, sponges, rags, hammers and crowbars for faster demolition, mops, buckets, cleaning supplies and garbage bags.
    12. EMERGENCY CONTACTS: Be sure to write these down in case your phone battery dies. You can then use a landline to let people know where you are and what you need.
  11. FOLLOWING THE EVENT:
    1. RETURN ONLY WHEN SAFE: Roads may be closed for some time following storms this big so be ready to stay put for at least 10 days. Electrical lines will be down increasing hazards.
    2. CHECK THE ROOF: Even if your home seems in-tact, check the roof. Tiles can come off in strong winds that you might not notice and lead to leaking in the future during the rainy seasons in later fall. Have a qualified person check your home. It is still an active hurricane season so making sure your roof is secure will be important.
    3. RETURN HOME WITH SUPPLIES: Replenish supplies you will need for up to 30 days upon return home. It takes a while for grocery stores, pharmacies to come back online.  Be sure to stock up on flashlights, batteries, candles, lighter fluid (for the charcoal), first aid supplies and bug spray. Mosquitos are terrible after storms like this when plants are defoliated.
    4. BEFORE YOU RETURN HOME: If your home was in the direct path of the storm, notify your mortgage company and be sure you did register with FEMA. Once you get home electricity may take 3-6 weeks to be restored. Do these things before you leave. They can assist with things like food stamps following a major event as well.  Understand that FEMA trailers will not arrive in your area until potentially 8-10 weeks following an adverse event.
    5. WATCH FOR EMAILS FROM US: We will send out an email after the storm to individuals who are pre-registered with us that will ask you to list your current location and identify if you are safe. If you are in a shelter, we will need you to self-identify what shelter you are located in so that we can notify our Red Cross friends.
    6. SAFETY IS JOB #1: Read this blog before you return.

Staying safe is the most important thing. It is devastating to lose your homes and your things but keeping your family safe and sound during these events should be your focus.

We love you and our team is praying for everyone.

Pay attention. Stay alert.  Have an #ASDPlan.