Emergency Preparedness Checklist image

Twice a year, Americans are encouraged to participate in National PrepareAthon! Day. Each spring, this national day of action takes place on April 30. The goal is to help communities and individuals across the country practice preparedness measures before a disaster or emergency strikes. For those with disabilities and chronic illnesses, such as arthritis, this is especially important.

Below, are a number of preparedness tips specifically geared towards individuals who have arthritis, their caregivers and advocates, and first responders. Additional guidance can be found at: https://community.fema.gov/. Among the resources offered on the website is the How to Prepare series. These preparedness guides cover a variety of hazards, ranging from earthquakes to winter storms, and aim to help individuals protect themselves and their property.


  • Conduct outreach and education with the arthritis community; interface with service providers/advocacy groups as part of preparedness planning.
  • Do not separate a person from assistive devices or caregivers — individuals may carry a list/file of life/medical alert tag about what helps them remain independent. Have MOUs with home health aides and companies that provide medical equipment, in case assistance is needed.
  • Offer an area to recharge assistive/adaptive technology as well as a safe place to store or refrigerate medications.



  • Collaborate on preparedness efforts with your local Office of Emergency Management (OEM) and first responders (Police, Fire, EMS)
  • Educate consumers and their support network on disaster preparedness.
  • Have a plan (and a backup plan) for staffing the agency during disasters and ensure all staff are aware of expectations/roles during an emergency. Keep a copy of emergency plans and lists of important phone numbers off-site.
  • If your building has more than one floor, keep an evacuation chair on-site.
  • Reach out to clients to see if they need assistance before, during and after a disaster.


  • Create a disaster/evacuation plan and establish a support network of family and friends who will be part of your plan. Plan what to do in an emergency with your family, your caseworker, or others that help you. Practice plans!
  • Shelters might be difficult to navigate. Arrange alternatives to public shelter, such as evacuating to a family member’s house, friend’s house, hotel/motel, etc.
  • Create a go-bag (disaster supply kit). Bags should include a flashlight, batteries, a crank radio, water, non-perishable food, medication (enough for at least a week), a change of clothes, a small amount of money, a list of emergency contacts (family, doctors, agencies, insurance, etc.), copies of important documents, assistive tools (i.e., a dressing stick), instant hot/cold packs or ointment for pain management, and an extra pair of glasses, if needed. Pack cords needed to charge wheelchair or phone and a small repair kit. Create a separate bag for service animals.
  • Label all assistive devices with your name and phone # should they get separated.
  • Fill prescriptions at a local big name pharmacy that can provide refills during emergencies. Always try to make sure you refill medication before running out so you have enough on hand if an emergency occurs.
  • Consider disclosing to first responders or mass care staff that you or your loved one has arthritis.
  • Learn about emergency preparedness online at www.ready.nj.gov
  • A John Hopkins University newsletter offered very specific advice for people with Arthritis, following Hurricane Katrina. Check out http://www.hopkinsarthritis.org/ arthritis-news/hurricane-katrina-and- arthritis-patients/ and consider whether you can apply any of these lessons learned to your own situation.