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Disaster Preparedness for the Autism Community: A Guide to Staying Safe

Emergencies are unpredictable, making it even more essential to have a comprehensive preparedness plan, especially for families and individuals within the autism community. Given the unique challenges and sensitivities faced by those on the autism spectrum, ensuring safety in emergencies requires added layers of planning and consideration. This guide outlines steps and suggestions to bolster the security of those in the autism community during unforeseen events.



1. Cultivate Calmness as Your First Response

While it's natural to experience fear or anxiety during emergencies, for caregivers and parents of those with autism, exhibiting calm is crucial. Children and adults on the spectrum can be exceptionally attuned to emotions, often mirroring the anxiety and stress of those around them.


By practicing and modeling a sense of calm, you foster an environment that minimizes additional stress for your loved ones.





2. Strategize Evacuation with Redundancy in Mind

Evacuation is an integral part of disaster preparedness. As unpredictability is the nature of emergencies, having multiple plans is advisable:

  • Map out primary and secondary evacuation routes from your home.

  • In the event primary routes are inaccessible, always have a backup plan.

  • Reach out to friends or family for support during evacuations if required.


3. Forge a Supportive Emergency Network

Establishing a network can be the difference between feeling stranded and feeling supported during emergencies. Consider the following:

  • Open a dialogue about potential emergency scenarios with relatives, friends, and co-workers. Express your specific needs and enlist their support.

  • Provide a key to a trusted neighbor or friend who can aid during emergencies, especially if immediate family members are away.


4. Survey and Secure Your Environment Post-Disaster

After any emergency, it's crucial to assess your surroundings for potential hazards. This becomes even more important for households with autistic individuals who may have sensory sensitivities or may not be aware of dangers.


Inspect your home and surroundings for broken items, displaced objects, or broken electrical lines. Ensure that familiar items used for comfort are accessible to your loved one to help provide a sense of normalcy and security.


5. Prioritize Safety from Silent Killers

Post-disaster scenarios often see a surge in the use of generators, grills, and stoves – essentials that can inadvertently become hazards. Carbon monoxide, a colorless and odorless gas, is a silent threat that can be emitted by these devices. Remember:

  • Never operate generators, grills, camp stoves, or similar devices inside homes, basements, garages, or campers.

  • Ensure they are positioned away from open windows when used outside.

  • Consider investing in carbon monoxide detectors for added safety.

Start today – because in the face of unpredictability, being prepared is the most potent tool we have. Remember, while emergencies are unexpected, our responses to them needn't be.

For the autism community, preparedness goes beyond the basic checklist. It requires a blend of understanding, foresight, and compassion to create an environment that ensures the safety and well-being of autistic individuals during emergencies. Start today – because in the face of unpredictability, being prepared is the most potent tool we have. Remember, while emergencies are unexpected, our responses to them needn't be.


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