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Fire in the Night: Iris’ Story

Summertime presents a number of heat hazards, including wildfires. Without notice, a wildfire can force families out of their homes, making it difficult to gather critical supplies, especially if you have a child with special medical needs. In case of an evacuation, make sure that an emergency kit, which includes medical supplies and equipment, is a part of your disaster plan.

Cars along wildfire evacuation route. Wildfire in the background.

Many people have startled awake in the middle of the night with a sudden clap of thunder or strike of lighting. It’s unsettling at first, but you quickly fall back to sleep after realizing that it is only a passing storm. Wildfires are another story. There is little sound to alert you, as a major danger approaches, giving you little time to prepare.

This was the case for Iris. In the summer of 2011, she was awakened with an evacuation notice due to a growing wildfire. At 10:30pm, Iris had to evacuate her family including her 3-year-old daughter Mary, who has cerebral palsy and epilepsy. Iris was not prepared to evacuate. “It was a scramble to get everything together—wheelchair, feeding supplies, feeding pump, and medications,” says Iris. She also included a special comfort item to help calm Mary, because her family “had no idea how long [they] would be out of their home.”

Lessons Learned

At any moment, a simple storm or fire can turn into a disaster and cause families to feel unprepared to meet the unique health needs of their children. Although Iris did not feel properly prepared for the evacuation, she learned the importance of having an emergency plan in place. It is a lesson that many families have learned first-hand. As a reminder to other families, Iris suggests having “a plan in case of an evacuation or disaster.”

For more information about emergency preparedness for people with disabilities please visit, http://www.cdc.gov/features/emergencypreparedness/index.html

This story was provided courtesy of Family Voices and Iris.

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