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Emergency Preparedness

General Emergency Preparation Resources

During a weather incident or natural disaster, be sure to follow local news and weather reports, as well as state and local government guidance.

These resources also may be helpful. 

Emergency Preparedness During COVID-19

Individual Preparedness Resources

CDC: Hurricanes and COVID-19

CDC: Wildfire Smoke and COVID-19

CDC: Natural Disasters, Severe Weather, and COVID-19

CDC: Going to a Public Disaster Shelter During COVID-19

AT3 Center has hurricane preparedness tips for users of assistive technology (AT) HERE.

The American Red Cross has a site dedicated to Preparing for Disaster During COVID-19. The Red Cross advises that, during the COVID-19 crisis, we must prepare a little differently for disasters that may affect our communities.

Organization Preparedness Resources

FEMA has issued an interim policy titled Emergency Non-Congregate Sheltering during the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency. The policy defines the framework, policy details, and requirements for determining eligible work and costs for non-congregate sheltering in response to a presidentially declared emergency or major disaster, or Fire Management Assistance Grant (FMAG) declaration (Stafford Act declarations).

Healthcare System Preparedness for Secondary Disasters during COVID-19. Secondary disasters (e.g., natural disasters, cyberattacks, large-scale transportation accidents, mass casualty incidents) that strike during the COVID-19 pandemic will further stress the health and medical system and threaten vulnerable residents and infrastructure. It includes considerations for healthcare and emergency management professionals when planning for allhazard secondary disasters during a public health emergency.

The National Governors Association (NGA) released guidance on managing natural disasters during pandemics. The NGA notes that responding to and recovering from natural disasters presents a significant challenge to states, notwithstanding the impacts of COVID-19 on human, financial, and physical resources. Their document was created for the nation's governors, but contains information that is broadly useful.

Emergency Preparedness for Older Adults and People with Disabilities

Disasters, man-made or natural, can happen at anytime, anywhere, and vary in magnitude. Older adults and people with disabilities often have unique needs during a crisis. For example, approximately half of those over age 65 have two or more chronic health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, or Alzheimer’s disease. These conditions increase a person’s vulnerability during periods of time without food, water, shelter, and adequate rest. People with disabilities may also have a wider variety of functional limitations, sometimes requiring more supports, many of which are often in short supply during a crisis event. It is critical that individuals, service providers, and communities actively engage in emergency planning.

Each person has a responsibility to prepare for potential crisis and make a plan for how to respond. Providers of long-term services and supports must train staff in all emergency actions (evacuation, lock-down, shelter-in-place). Community leaders and first-responders must be prepared to support the health and safety needs of older adults and people with disabilities, engage these populations in the planning process, and—to the maximum extent possible—provide services and supports in integrated Functional Needs Support Shelters.

The only way to ensure the well-being of older adults and people with disabilities during a crisis is through a “whole-community” approach to preparedness.

Individual Preparedness: Best Practices and and Resources

Older adults, people with disabilities, and caregivers can take steps to prepare for emergencies. The majority of older adults and people with disabilities live in the community. Many live alone, but require long-term services and supports in order to reside in the community. Without the appropriate contingency plans, mobility limitations, the need for battery or electrically powered medical devices or durable medical equipment, or other functional considerations could negatively impact a person during a crisis. However, by examining each person’s unique needs, it is possible to create person-centered plans that accommodate these needs and maximize independence.

At a minimum, each individual (with the assistance of his or her caregiver, if necessary) should create a kit of emergency necessities. This should include medication, food, water, batteries or chargers, and any supplies that pets or service animals may need. It also should include the locations of the nearest Functional Needs Support Shelter (if available).

ACL has created two tools that also are an important part of any emergency kit.  This Medical Information Card captures important  information that could be needed by emergency responders and medical personnel during a crisis situation. The Communication Assistance Card  is a tool to help first responders assist a person whose disability may make it difficult for them to communicate their needs.

Individuals should also talk to friends, family, and neighbors to create a support network that can help with communication, transportation, and essential care during periods of time when other community-based services and supports are not available.

General Resources

Resources for People with Disabilities

Resources for Older Adults 

Resources for Veterans

Service Provider Preparedness: Best Practices and Resources

Hospitals, nursing homes, and other providers of long-term services and supports face unique obstacles during a crisis. They are frequently called upon to provide leadership during and after a disaster. And they must make response plans for the safety of their service recipients and staff, during an emergency. Those plans must include well-tested transportation procedures should an evacuation become necessary.

It is essential that all staff members know their roles and responsibilities in the service provider’s emergency response plans—especially during an evacuation. Emergency management plans should be reviewed and tested on a regular basis to build in redundancies, identify gaps, and develop strategies to mitigate any shortcomings.

Many types of providers are required to develop emergency response plan standards for licensure or certification. In addition to these requirements, collaboration with other agencies and participation in community-wide drills and exercises can further ensure that the service provider’s emergency plans are integrated with response efforts at all levels. It is also important to ensure that backup power generators are available and in working order, transportation plans are in place for evacuation, and that policies are in place for emergency communications with relatives of care recipients.

Community Preparedness: Best Practices and Resources

Older adults and people with disabilities are frequently overlooked during the disaster planning, response, and recovery process. Emergency management planning must integrate older adults and people with disabilities of all ages—and their caregivers—into every aspect of community emergency planning, response, and recovery. They should also be included in plan development through public meetings and efforts should be undertaken to hold meetings close to public transportation and at hours when public transportation is in service. Shelters should be surveyed and supplies should be obtained to ensure that they are accessible to older adults, as well as people with disabilities and functional supports needs.

In order to do this, it is critical that officials take a “whole-community” approach when considering the needs of older adults and people with disabilities during and after a crisis. Key players include hospitals, local providers of long-term services and supports, the Area Agencies on Aging, the Centers for Independent Living, Protection & Advocacy organizations, Developmental Disability Councils, Long-Term Care Ombudsman programs, and the Aging and Disability Resource Centers. These organizations should be included in the coordination, planning, and executing of joint exercises with state and local law enforcement and first responders to increase the likelihood that all community members will be considered and protected during an emergency.

On November 15, 2018, ACL's Administration on Disabilities hosted a webinar on emergency preparedness. The webinar defined and explained federal, state and local roles and responsibilities in disasters and public health emergencies; provided a summary of guidance and frameworks used at all levels for planning and coordination; and shared best practices and examples of effective coordination with community-based organizations to address the health and well-being of people with disabilities in disasters. A recording, transcript (PDF), and slides from the webinar are now available.

Guides for Communities Community Preparedness

Capacity-Building Toolkit for Including Aging and Disability Networks in Emergency Planning

Organizations Preparing for Emergency Needs (OPEN): Preparedness Training for Community-Based Organizations -- OPEN includes both a web-based, self-guided training, and a downloadable instructor kit that will guide participants on how to identify risks, locate resources, and take preparedness actions. When community-based organizations, such as food pantries, daycares, and non-profits, are unable to sustain operations during an emergency incident, individuals who rely on them are exponentially impacted. Because of their importance in keeping the community going, OPEN is designed to empower these organizations to better prepare for incidents. The OPEN training provides an overview of the 10 preparedness actions and creates a path forward for organizations to develop their own disaster response plan.

Frequently Asked Emergency Management Questions for Aging Services Professionals at the State and Local Levels 

Identifying Vulnerable Older Adults and Legal Options for Increasing Their Protection During All-Hazards Emergencies: A Cross-Sector Guide for States and Communities

ADA Guide for Local Governments: Making Community Emergency Preparedness and Response Programs Accessible to People with Disabilities

Ensuring Language Access and Effective Communication During Response and Recovery: A Checklist for Emergency Responders

FEMA Guide to Planning Personal Assistance Services in General Population Shelters

FEMA Guidance on Planning for Integration of Functional Needs Support Services in General Population Shelters


ASPR Online Training: Addressing the Needs of Older Adults in Disasters

ASPR Online Training: Access and Functional Needs

Other Resources

HHS emPOWER provides data from Medicare claims data on people who are electric-dependent. This is a helpful tool to use in planning for and addressing power needs during an emergency. 

ASPR Healthcare Preparedness Capabilities: National Guidance for Healthcare System Preparedness

Communicating in a Crisis: Risk Communication Guidelines for Public Officials--The guide provides public officials as well as others involved in disaster and emergency communications with information about effective communication, working with the media, using social media, and addressing errors and controlling rumors

FEMA Protective Actions Research -- Preparedness starts with you, but it takes the collaboration of the whole community to achieve a culture of preparedness. FEMA has made a substantial effort to validate these protective actions. However, this collection of research is not exhaustive or official guidance. Help us expand our knowledge about the best ways individuals and communities can prepare for, keep safe during, and recover from disasters. Review the information here and contribute to the preparedness research conversation by using the Contact ICPD buttons to share research, questions, and articles.


Community-Based Organization Preparedness

CBO OPEN Training

On September 17, 2020, FEMA held a webinar to discuss the new Organizations Preparing for Emergency Needs (OPEN) training, and how it will help Community-Based Organizations (CBOs) prepare for incidents and continue providing services after a disaster. Click here to view the recorded session.

Capacity-Building Toolkit for including Aging & Disability Networks in Emergency Planning

ACL worked with the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) and the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) to create this resource to guide the aging and disability networks in increasing their ability to plan for and respond to public health emergencies and disasters.

The Toolkit can help emergency managers and public health officials to understand the capabilities and expertise of CBOs within the aging and disability networks and welcome their partnership in emergency planning activities.

While the Toolkit is not specifically focused on COVID-19, its recommendations and resources apply to a wide range of emergency situations. Module Three, which begins on page 21, specifically addresses preparing for public health emergencies, including infectious disease. 

On April 18, 2019, ACL hosted the second in a series of tri-annual webinars for the Administration on Disabilities to provide information on disaster-related activities. The topic of this webinar was on “Introducing the Capacity-Building Toolkit for Including Aging and Disability Networks in Emergency Planning.” In this webinar, Cheryl Levine, PhD, Special Advisor for At-Risk Individuals, ASPR/HHS, described the new Capacity-Building Toolkit that addresses the following requirements:

  1. providing information and resources for the aging and disability networks to become more engaged in emergency planning;
  2. increasing community–based organization (CBO) readiness through establishing partnerships with emergency management and public health officials;
  3. advancing whole community/inclusive emergency planning and supporting consumers with individual preparedness; and
  4. ensuring equal access to our nation’s emergency preparedness, response and recovery resources.

A recording, slides (PDF), transcript (PDF), and Q&A (Word) from the webinar are now available.

Ready Resources Provided in Both English and Spanish

Prepare with the new toolkits and videos.

Organizations and their staff face a variety of hazards. The Ready Business program helps organizations plan for these hazards.

The Ready Business Toolkit series includes hazard-specific versions. The following versions include step-by-step guides in English and Spanish to build preparedness within an organization.

  • Earthquake “QuakeSmart” Toolkit
  • Hurricane Toolkit
  • Inland Flooding Toolkit
  • Power Outage Toolkit
  • Severe Wind/Tornado Toolkit

The Ready Business videos, available in English and Spanish, briefly explain several key parts of getting ready, such as:

  • Staff/Employee Management;
  • Physical Surroundings;
  • Physical Space;
  • Building Construction;
  • Systems; and
  • Community Service.

Download and view these new resources at

Emergencies can also harm IT systems. has an IT Disaster Recovery Plan resource.

CDC Personal Health Preparedness Toolkit


Materials for National Preparedness Month

To help educate older adults, people with disabilities, community-based organizations and others about emergency preparation, ACL created some materials with tips on readiness. These are free to download and available to the public for use.  also has several social media toolkits focused on preparedness, including one for the National Preparedness Month.

Social Media Graphics

Create a kit of necessities: food, water, and medicines; info card for emergency responders; batteries and chargers  Gather important information ahead of time: copies of medical insurance cards; contact info for health providers, caregivers, and family; and list of medical devices and medications

Have a plan in case of emergency: communication, transportation, and essential care  Prepare for a power outage if you use electric medical devices: talk to a health care provider about what to do; identify an alternative power source for devices; and inform your emergency contacts of the backup plan

Emergency Preparedness Poster

Download a poster about emergency preparation for older adults and people with disabilities.

Poster about emergency preparation for older adults and people with disabilities

Medical information card

This downloadable medical information card captures important  information that could be needed by emergency responders and medical personnel during a crisis situation. Downloadable here.

Image for front of emergency information card Image for back of emergency information card
Communication Assistance Card

The Communication Assistance Card  is a tool to help first responders assist a person whose disability may make it difficult for them to communicate their needs. Download here.

Emergency information card to communicate about disability


More resources about emergency preparedness are available at


Last modified on 03/07/2023

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