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Preparedness Tips for Individuals with Cognitive Barriers

If you or a loved one has a cognitive or developmental need, consider the following when developing your emergency plans to increase your personal preparedness.

1. Plan for Yourself & Your Surroundings

Customized emergency kits with items specific to your needs: backup assistive communication devices, spare chargers, headphones, a bedsheet or pop-up tent to minimize visual stimulation or for privacy.

Build a network of neighbors, relatives, friends and coworkers to help you in an emergency. Discuss your needs and make sure everyone knows where you store your emergency kit.

Keep a written Emergency Plan with you and give a copy to your personal support network. Make sure your emergency plan is easy to read and understand.

Keep a contact list of your support networks along with important documents such as Advanced Directives or Durable Power of Attorney sealed in a watertight container in your emergency kit.

A change in routine can have serious consequences for an individual with a developmentally disabilities. Consider creating a written “daily schedule” of routine activities performed during a regular day. Distribute these to your personal support network.

If non-verbal, prepare pre-printed messages for emergency personnel (e.g. “I cannot read”, or “I forget easily. Please write down information for me”). If you can, practice how to tell someone what you need.

Create a simple list of instructions for yourself ahead of time, this will help you focus and stay calm.

Wear a medical alert tag/bracelet to identify any non-visible disabilities for first responders.

Create and post an evacuation plan with visual aids to help remember the steps to take in an emergency.

Practice evacuating from places where you spend time (job, home, school, volunteer assignment) until you feel comfortable and confident that you will know what to do during and after an emergency.

2. Plan for your Environment & Community

Experiencing an emergency may be overwhelming and stress may worsen certain health conditions. Some people may benefit from having a favorite item (e.g., book, music player) to help them stay calm and focused.

Be familiar with emergency plans and procedures that exist in places you spend time such as your workplace, school or day care center. Identify how information will be communicated to you in an emergency.

Identify where you will meet family, friends, or caregivers after an emergency. Pick two places to meet: one right near your home and another outside your neighborhood (e.g. library, community center, or place of worship).

Contact your local Emergency Management office to explore the creation of a voluntary registry of people with disabilities located within their jurisdiction.

Associated Agencies & Service Providers

Kentucky Council on Developmental Disabilities
656 Chamberlin Ave, Suite C
Frankfort, KY 40601
(502) 564-7841 |

The ARC of Kentucky
706 E. Main Street A
Frankfort, KY 40601
(800) 281-1272 |

Autism Society of the Bluegrass
453 Rookwood Pkwy
Lexington, KY 40505
(800) 572-6245 |

UK Human Development Institute
126 Graham Ave
Lexington, KY 40508
(859) 257-1714 |

Cedar Lake 
9505 Williamsburg Plaza, Suite 200
Louisville, KY 40222
(502) 495-4946 |