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How to help your neighbors with disabilities in a disaster

Preparedness is important when it comes to disasters, especially for people who can't easily help themselves.

Bobby Grassi is legally blind usually relying on his walking stick to get around. But if disaster strikes:

"I'll be dependent on people coming to help and if we have to evacuate, getting out of harm's way," said Grassi.

Disabilities and special needs can make it harder to prepare for and respond to a disaster. Often, people who live with disabilities and special needs require help and more time when a disaster hits.

"Whatever the event is, just coming over and checking on us. See what we need, if we're ok," said Grassi. "If you know someone with a disability, your next-door neighbor or something, go talk to them now, before something happens. "

Take time to understand their disability and needs so you know how to best help them. Some disabilities and special needs are visible like physical disabilities. Others are invisible like Alzheimer's or deafness.

"There are not enough police there are not enough fire to come to everyone's aid, you are going to be dependent on your neighbor for everything," said Grassi.

To effectively prepare: be informed, make a plan, and take action.

Carla Sullivan-Dilley is the president of the Coachella Valley Disaster Preparedness Network. She suggests creating a neighborhood support network or joining one.

"Not only can you identify disabilities, but you can identify strengths and people like a new neighbor, he might be a retired fire person, firefighter," said Sullivan-Dilley.

One of the training courses she encourages everyone to take is the Community Emergency Response Team training program (CERT), which teaches you how to respond to a disaster and help your neighbors.

"We need to be a little bit more caring sometimes look at people through the eyes of that could be my mom, that could be my dad, or my grandma, my grandpa, how would I want them treated," said Sullivan-Dilley.

Work with your support network to create a plan that is inclusive of everyone's needs in your community.

"Ultimately, it is about saving lives," said Grassi.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security offers tips on how to best help a person depending on the disability or special need they live with. The tips include how to help individuals with intellectual disabilities, Alzheimers, and mobility disabilities. Also, for individuals who are blind or deaf.

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Marian Bouchot

Marian Bouchot is the weekend morning anchor and a reporter for KESQ News Channel 3. Learn more about Marian here.

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