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Real Stories - Special Needs and Emergency Preparedness

Preparing for a disaster before it strikes is essential for all families. For families that include children with special needs, the challenges can be even greater. Read these stories of how real families and caregivers responded to such challenges, and what they learned in the process.

Photo of many people with their hands in the middle of a circle together.

“Support Systems: Cenaida’s Story”

When extreme heat and high winds caused a power outage in their southwest desert hometown, Inga and her granddaughter, Cenaida, who has a seizure disorder (sometimes referred to as epilepsy),were worried.

Photo of st christopher hospital.

"St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children: A Doctor’s Story"

When the threat of Hurricane Sandy became a reality, Dr. Renee Turchi and her team at The Center for Children and Youth with Special Health Care Needs at St. Christopher’s Hospital.

Photo of a boy hiding in a corner of a room.

"Early, Extra, Emergency: Isiah’s Story"

When a tornado struck the northeast United States in 2012, Nancy was with her son Isiah, who has Down syndrome and a seizure disorder. As a result of trees that had fallen, Nancy could not enter her home.

Photo of hurricane evacuation sign with storm in the background.

"Planning Ahead: Kevin’s Story"

Karen was prepared when Hurricanes Katrina, Gustav, and Isaac struck her southern town. She had experienced multiple natural disasters in her town that caused her to evacuate with her family, so she had emergency plans in place.

Photo of people with hands together.

"Community Support: Maddie’s Story"

In one southern town, April combined her own planning with local community resources to prepare her family for Hurricane Isaac.

Photo of tornado shelter sign.

"Shelter in Place: Reagan’s Story"

Living in a small town in tornado alley, Angelia had always prepared for being in a storm shelter for a couple of hours to ride out a storm.

Photo of woman with young boy.

"Safe Transport: Sam’s Story"

In 2011, a severe ice storm hit the Midwest, leaving Mary and her family without power, heat, or a reliable car. Mary’s son, Sam, has cerebral palsy (CP), which is a group of disorders that can affect a person’s ability to move and maintain balance and posture.

Photo of car driving on a flooded street.

"Coping with Disaster: Sara’s Story"

A major flood swept through Cathy’s town, resulting in 4,000 homes and businesses being destroyed, unclean public water, limited access to local food, and displaced individuals with developmental disabilities.

Photo of girl in kitchen.

"On the Go in an Emergency: Stephanie’s Story"

A major flood swept through Cathy’s town, resulting in 4,000 homes and businesses being destroyed, unclean public water, limited access to local food, and displaced individuals with developmental disabilities.

Photo of people looking at a wildfire.

"Time to Evacuate: Zoe’s Story"

More than 500 homes were destroyed when a wildfire swept across Lorraine’s town, forcing hundreds of families to evacuate. “Evacuations began when both parents were at work, leaving our child with her nurse assistant stranded at home while we rushed home fighting traffic,” says Lorraine.

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