Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Emergency Preparedness

Disasters and other emergencies 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) that can increase a person’s vulnerability during periods of time without food, water, shelter, and adequate rest. People with disabilities also may have underlying health conditions that increase their risks during a crisis or may require services and supports that are often scarce during a crisis event. 

That’s why planning to meet the needs of older adults and people with disabilities – both at the community level and for each individual – is so important. 

We’ve compiled some resources and tools to help! You can browse by topic below, or visit to find a wide variety of resources for preparedness planning, such as several social media toolkits, including one for National Preparedness Month. The HHS Administration for Strategic Preparedness & Response also has information and resources that may be useful. 

Resources for Weather and Natural Disasters

During a weather incident or natural disaster, be sure to follow local news and weather reports, as well as state and local government guidance. Below are some resources for planning and responding to some of the most commonly occurring emergencies.

Resources for Weather and Natural Disasters

Safety During Emergencies

Maintaining safety during emergency situations can be particularly challenging for older adults and people with disabilities. Here are some resources for considering emergency safety issues and actions that can be taken.

Safety Resources

Emergency Preparedness for Older Adults and People with Disabilities

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, and 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 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 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 and 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 shelter.

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:

Mobile Apps:

Resources for Caregivers:

  • The Disaster Preparedness Guide for Caregivers (PDF) is a guide from FEMA that provides information on three essential steps that can help caregivers feel more prepared when disaster strikes: assessing needs, engaging a support network, and creating a plan.

Resources for People with Disabilities:

Resources for Older Adults:

Preparedness for Community-Based Organizations and Providers of Healthcare Services: Best Practices and Resources

Organizations that serve older adults and people with disabilities, home health providers, hospitals, nursing homes, and other providers of long-term care services and supports face unique obstacles during a crisis. They are frequently called on to provide leadership during and after a disaster. And they must make plans for the safety of their service recipients and staff during an emergency. Those plans must also include well-tested and accessible 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.

Emergency Planning Resources:

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, at hours when public transportation is in service, and with virtual attendance options. Shelters should be surveyed and supplies should be obtained to ensure that they are accessible to people with disabilities and older adults.

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.

Guides for Communities:



  • HHS emPOWER provides de-identified 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. 


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.

Social Media Graphics

Emergency Preparedness Poster

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.

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. 


More resources about emergency preparedness are available at

Last modified on 03/25/2024

Back to Top