These 9 tips greatly increase the chances for surviving a tornado in a wheelchair, whether your family member is a child or an adult.

Tornado season scared me to death when I was a kid. First, because of the scene in The Wizard of Oz when the tornado bears down on Dorothy as she pounds on the door of the storm cellar to no avail. Young as I was, I realized that though Dorothy might have survived a twister in movie world Kansas, in the real world she would have been toast. Second, because of what occurred whenever the tornado sirens sounded in our town. Mom would call her brother-in-law who lived about 8 blocks away. He would drive over, help Mom get Dad and his wheelchair into the basement, and then go back to his house to wait out the storm with his family. Young as I was, I realized that if a tornado had touched down between our house and his, the grown ups I loved most in the world would also have been toast.

With tornado season in full swing where I live, I wanted to learn how tornado preparedness, especially for people in wheelchairs, has advanced over the years. Research showed that some improvements, though perhaps not enough, have been made. Based on what I learned, here are 9 tips–some old and some new–for surviving a tornado in a wheelchair.

  1. Create a plan. Before tornado season, decide what to do if a tornado hits. What do you need to have in place before tornado season? Where will you go if a tornado warning sounds? Do you need someone to assist you, and if so, who will that be? Practice the plan with all the members of the family. If some of your family members are children or the person in the wheelchair is a child, make the practice into a game to prevent fears from arising.
  2. Develop a support network. Enlist the support of family members, friends, and neighbors willing to take the person in a wheelchair to a safe place.
  3. Register your family.Let the local fire department, emergency management, team and volunteer centers know your family includes someone in a wheelchair.
  4. Call the power company. This is essential if your family member’s wheelchair is battery-operated or if other equipment depends on power, such as oxygen tanks or a ventilator. Some power companies maintain maps and lists of locations of customers who are power-dependent in case of an emergency, They also offer advice about setting up alternate power sources in case of an emergency.

Disaster planning guides for people with a wide variety of special needs and disabilities can be accessed through the article Tornadoes and People with Disabilities located at the Disabled World website.

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