Emergencies happen at any time, anywhere – most often without warning. An emergency can be a personal injury such as falls and muscle-related injuries. It can also involve extreme weather emergencies, such as an earthquake, winds, or flooding due to a storm.
People with disabilities or special needs, as well as those who are around them such as a disability support worker, will need to take steps to ensure safety. They sometimes have added challenges during an emergency compared to people without disabilities. For instance, those with disabilities may have difficulty communicating, or trouble adjusting to different situations. They may also have issues with mobility or moving from one location to another.
Additional preparation may be required when planning for an emergency or disaster situation for a person with disabilities. Preparation is critical to responding appropriately in an emergency or a natural disaster.
Preparing beforehand should cover communication, evacuation, and the necessary equipment needed. Having a first aid and safety action plan in place will help minimise potential dangers. Disability support courses are a great way to learn effective communication and how to administer individualised support to disabled individuals.
Importance of First Aid
Knowing how to respond to an injury or illness is important, especially for people with disabilities. First aid is usually applied before emergency help arrives. This intervention can prevent serious health issues, long-term disabilities, and even death.
First aid application may involve performing CPR to maintain blood flow and oxygen levels until emergency help arrives. It may include assisting with a broken bone injury, cuts, laceration, or head injury. The idea of first aid is down to the 3Ps: preserve life, prevent further harm, and promote recovery.
People with disabilities are just as likely to encounter minor and major injuries. It can be a burn injury from boiling water, an allergic reaction from a bee sting, or a scraped knee.
The following are first aid and emergency safety tips for people with special needs.
Perform CPR & CPR Safety
Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is needed when a person’s heart suddenly stops. At this point, the person may be unconscious and not breathing.
CPR plays a critical role in saving lives in the event of a sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). When SCA happens, the heart will no longer be able to pump blood to the major organs of the body. The oxygen-filled blood is what the organs need to survive. Without it, there will be severe damage to the organs. In fact, the brain will stop functioning after 4 minutes without oxygen, and the person can die. Bystanders must perform CPR right away.
Resuscitation from a first aider will supply oxygen to the brain and heart when the person stops breathing.
Before proceeding with CPR, check if there are other bystanders in the area and ask them to call an ambulance. One person should focus on checking the responsiveness, breathing, and pulse of the patient.
If only one first responder is present, start with performing at least five cycles of rescue breathing and chest compressions. Once you perform the initial CPR cycle, call emergency services before you resume.
If the person is breathing but does not have a pulse, perform hands-only CPR. If the person is unresponsive, with no pulse, and not breathing normally, the responder should administer CPR with rescue breathing.
Fire Safety & Escape Plan
People with special needs such as mobility limitations, visual and hearing impairment will need to take extra steps to ensure fire safety. For those with vision problems, extra precautions should be taken when working in the kitchen using fire. For those with hearing impairment, they may need to rely on their senses of smell and vision to remain safe. They can also ask for assistance from people nearby.
For further safety, always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines when using appliances. Install smoke alarms with additional features for people with hearing impairment. These have flashing lights that will alert them to the danger. People with mobility limitations will need to always keep their mobility devices nearby. Bystanders and emergency responders should also be informed of their disability.
A detailed fire escape plan is important for people with disabilities. The escape plan must contain evacuation steps that will meet their specific needs in the event of a fire. It must help them escape home or a building by themselves or with the help of others.
There should be a backup plan in place to assist with evacuation. It is wise to practice it regularly to ensure that everyone involved knows what to do in a fire emergency.
Natural Disaster Safety & Recovery Plan
Natural disaster safety for people with special needs and disabilities may involve creating a recovery plan and getting assistance from others. It may include building a support network that is ready and able to assist during and after a disaster. The ideal support network should involve at least three people in case the other two are unavailable.
Start with determining what assistance the person needs, such as personal care, food and water, evacuation, and other things.
A disaster recovery plan includes creating a disaster first aid kit. This kit should contain all supplies, equipment, and medication.
A safety kit will enable you to treat both minor and major injuries. Be sure to include the following:
- 3-day supply of water and non-perishable food
- Flashlight and batteries
- Hygiene items
- Extra clothing, towels, and blankets
- Extra cash
Having these items helps ensure your safety in a disaster emergency.
Specialised First Aid, CPR, and emergency safety are necessary for people with disabilities and special needs. Taking a Provide First Aid course helps determine what the appropriate response and medical care should be.
Completing a First Aid Course will let you know the difference between emergencies and non–emergencies. You can demonstrate first-aid skills for common injuries or medical situations. You will also gain the knowledge to prevent injuries and make your own first aid kit.
Knowing what to do in an emergency can build your self-confidence, reliability, and independence.