Just like 2018, 2019 went out with a bang in Fargo, North Dakota, where I am writing this from.  By bang, I mean blizzard.  Woohoo, 13.5+ inches of snow!  As a born and bred North Dakotan, being prepared for a blizzard is something I was trained on from a young age.  When this most recent blizzard hit, I was prepared.  Were you?

As we enter 2020, ND Assistive encourages you to make a resolution to be prepared!  To be prepared for extreme weather events. To be prepared for a natural disaster. To be prepared for a national emergency.  While we all hope to never experience such a situation, it is our individual responsibility to be prepared.

We all have unique needs so what it means to be prepared may vary from person to person. Individuals with disabilities, individuals experiencing the effects of aging, and assistive technology (AT) users may have additional considerations to include in their emergency plans. Would you be able to make it on your own for at least three days? Individuals who are normally self-sufficient may need to rely on others during a crisis.  Do you have preparations in place for others to assist you?

The US Department of Homeland Security has created a thorough resource website to help individuals with disabilities become prepared for an emergency.


Special Considerations for Assistive Technology Users

There are special considerations for assistive technology users to include in their emergency plans.  To learn more, check out this handy guide about emergency preparedness, created by ND Assistive, then known as IPAT, in the early 2010s.

Instructions for Rescue Personnel

Create brief, clear, and specific written instructions to give to rescue personnel and have it laminated. For example: Please take my wheelchair, communication device and power supply, and medications.  Create and laminate instructions for each piece of assistive technology that you use.

Device Information

Keep information regarding all of your assistive technology devices stored in a safe location(s).  It is recommended that this information be stored in at least two locations, such as in a safe deposit box or with a friend or relative who lives 100+ miles away.  Storing this information digitally is also recommended; for example, you could email it to yourself.

This information should include:

  • Device make and model number
  • Information about how the device was obtained, i.e. device was funded by Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance, personal pay
  • If the equipment was purchased, note where you purchased it.

Power Outages

If you use a powered AT device, be sure to have a backup plan in the case of an extended power outage.  Sometimes, like in the case of last week’s blizzard, you might have advance notice that the potential for an emergency situation exists.  When this happens, it is a smart move to make sure your devices and any backup batteries or powerbanks are fully charged.

Users of powered mobility devices, such as wheelchairs and scooters, are recommended to have an additional battery and a lightweight manual wheelchair available as a backup.

Users of augmentative communication devices are recommended to have a plan for how you will communicate if your device is not working.  Laminated cards with important phrases, pictures, or pictograms should be kept in a known location.


If you have questions regarding your assistive technology and emergency preparedness, please contact ND Assistive at 800-895-4728 or info@ndassistive.org.