Times are uncertain across the world, but Californians in particular are managing a whole host of emergency situations in tandem with one another. As we all find ourselves grappling with the global pandemic and all of its fallout, some are seeking refuge from wildfires and some are contending with Public Safety Power Shut-offs (PSPS’s) or both.
In light of this, and in recognition of the close of National Preparedness Month, those of us at Where It’s AT are hoping to provide some resources which might come in handy in the instance of an emergency situation.
CFILC has recently partnered with Pacific Gas and Electric, Anthem Blue Cross, and American Red Cross to launch the groundbreaking Disability Disaster Access & Resources (DDAR) pilot program. (Watch the launch presentation to learn more about why and how this program came about, and how it can serve you). DDAR assists individuals with disabilities and households of individuals with disabilities in taking a proactive approach to managing the dramatic impact climate change has had on our environment and our community. DDAR assists individuals in creating an emergency plan to prepare, and provides support during and after, PSPS events, wildfires or any other disasters. DDAR has also been providing support during COVID-19 advisories, working to debunk mask misinformation, and spread useful information to the disability community who have been so disproportionately impacted by this public health crisis. To get connected with DDAR and find the Disability Disaster Access & Resource Center (DDARC) near you, please visit the DDAR website.
If you live in a high fire threat area, are a person with a disability or older adult, and require electricity to power your assistive technology or durable medical equipment on a regular basis in order to maintain your independence, we encourage you to read about Power Safety Shutoff Backup Battery Options for Consumers and also recommend you to apply for Power Safety Shutoff Resources. After completing the application, you will be contacted by the Disability Disaster Access & Resource Center (DDARC) serving your area. You may be eligible to receive a short-term battery loan, long-term battery loan/grant, lease-to-own battery, financial loan through the Freedomtech Loan Program to purchase a battery, hotel vouchers, food vouchers or transportation vouchers to keep you and your loved ones safe during a PSPS event.
If you depend on power for medical and independent living needs, you should also apply for PG&E’s Medical Baseline Program which will help lower your monthly bills. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, PG&E is not requiring a doctor’s verification to ensure participation in the program. These programs are not income-based, like PG&E’s California Alternate Rates for Energy Program (CARE) and Family Electric Rate Assistance Program (FERA) but rather based on need for electric based Assistive Technology. Southern California Edison also offers a Medical Baseline Allowance Program and Southern California Edison’s income-based California Alternate Rates for Energy (CARE) and Family Electric Rate Assistance (FERA) are additional income-based options for their consumers. If you are not serviced by either of these providers, please reach out to your provider and ask them about their medical baseline program.
To stay connected regarding any emergencies occurring throughout the State of California, please visit the Cal OES website to get updates on emerging disasters and the efforts taken to prevent, prepare, manage and resolve them. For information on federal emergency support, visit the FEMA website and for additional emergency response information please visit the Red Cross website.
Here is a list of items which may come in handy in the event of an emergency.
- Having a Go Bag ready by your door or in your trunk will provide the comfort of knowing that you are prepared to go with all essential items and could save valuable time if evacuating your home. Fill your kit with various items, depending on your needs, like: Copies of vital information, contact list for family, friends and doctors, recent pictures of household members/pets, bottled water, food/MREs, Sterno cans, first aid kit, medication/list of medications, pet food/medicines, pet collar and leash or carrier, light blankets, portable chargers, flashlights, various sizes of extra batteries, emergency crank radio, duct tape, a pocket knife, lighters, plastic trash/storage bags, paper towels, activity books to keep anxious family members occupied and any security items that will bring individuals comfort. Any of the below items could be great additions to your kit.
- Surgical Masks are the most necessary piece of AT for Californians in 2020, providing protection against COVID-19 and particulate matter from wildfires.
- Disposable hand/foot/body warmers are a great resource to help maintain safety and comfort if you are needing to evacuate your home due to a wildfire.
- Products like the Life Straw Water Bottle will enable you to obtain safe drinking water wherever you are.
- A Cooling Weighted Blanket will not only provide the functionality of a blanket, it will also impart emotional support for a variety of anxiety related conditions.
- The Adapts Transfer Sling could be an essential piece of equipment for individuals who utilize wheelchairs. When escaping a wildfire, seconds can make a difference between getting out or not and much needed assistive technology can get left behind, commonly including people’s wheelchairs. A transfer sling not only makes transferring from one seat to another a safe and comfortable experience, it can also serve to provide the means for a quick and secure team lift to get a wheelchair user or injured individual out of harm’s way.
- A cooler could be a vital resource for individuals who need to keep medicine at a specific temperature. Whether the need to obtain temporary cooling methods be a result of a PSPS knocking out the power that keeps your refrigerator going, or you are evacuating your home due to a wildfire. We have found great success with durable Orca coolers and easily transportable Hydroflask Cooler Backpacks.
- The Chill Pal is a fantastic product for keeping cool when on the go or unable to operate cooling AT that is electric or battery powered. It is a low-tech option that could provide some much needed relief if evacuating a wildfire or maintaining your personal temperature in a home that doesn’t have air conditioning due to a PSPS.
- When trying to signal for help in a wildfire, a tool like the Serius Signal C-1003 SOS LED Distress Kit is essential. It functions as a flare, has an attached marine whistle, contains an orange distress flag and even floats. Although it comes supplied with batteries, don’t forget to pick up additional batteries as a precaution.
- Whether you are being evacuated to a Disaster Recovery Center or are riding out a PSPS, a rechargeable Multipurpose light is a useful piece of AT to have on hand.
If you are a person with a disability or an older adult who has been impacted by a California disaster and you have lost your personal AT or DME, we invite you to apply for the Richard Devylder Disaster Relief Fund. Applications can be completed online, printed and mailed, or scanned and emailed to CFILC at:
C/O Richard Devylder Disaster Relief Fund
1000 G Street, Suite 100
Sacramento, CA 95814
After you complete your application, a Disability Disaster Access & Resource Center (DDARC) staff member will contact you.
If you’d like to support individuals impacted by disasters, please visit this website to donate to the Richard Devylder Disaster Relief Fund by selecting it from the dropdown menu of donation options.