Storm Season Safety: Considerations for People with Access and Functional Needs


As our state experiences flash flooding, debris flows and other impacts as a result of the recent storms, the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) wants to ensure all Californians, including individuals with access and functional needs (AFN) (i.e. people with disabilities, older adults, children, limited English proficiency, and transportation disadvantaged) are safe. 

It’s important to know your area’s risk, as disasters disproportionately affect individuals with AFN. Extreme weather can leave communities without utilities or other services for long periods of time. Prolonged exposure to cold temperatures can lead to hypothermia and increased health risks. Make a plan now to ensure you have the right tools and resources to help you stay safe this winter.  


Sign up for free local emergency alerts to provide lifesaving information. You can choose how to get alerts sent to you when you register, including cell phone, home phone, email, text messages and in some cases TTY devices.  


Pack a go bag that you can quickly grab in case you need to evacuate, make sure to include:  

  • Important documents 
  • Cash 
  • Medications and contact list of your doctor or care providers 
  • First aid and supplies 
  • Back up batteries for equipment or motorized wheelchair 
  • A contact list of friends or family members who can support you 

Here are additional items to consider for individuals who have specific medical needs: 

Deaf or hard of hearing 

  • Keep extra batteries for hearing aids.  
  • Pack pen and paper or communicate with someone who does not know sign language.  
  • Consider carrying a pre-printed copy of key phrases, such as: 
  • “I speak American Sign Language (ASL) and need an ASL interpreter.”  
  • “If you make an announcement, please write it down for me.”  
  • You can also utilize LISTOS California for information about emergency preparedness in ASL and other languages 

 Blind or low vision 

  • Mark emergency items you need with braille labels or large print.  
  • Keep communication devices in your emergency supply kit.  
  • Consider your service animals or pets and plan for food, water, supplies. Some shelters only allow service animals.  
  • If you use a cane, keep extras at work, home school etc.  

Speech disabilities 

  • Carry an instruction card on how to communicate with you if your equipment or assistive devices are not working. This may include laminated cards with phrases or pictograms.  
  • If you use an augmented communication device, plan how you will evacuate with it.  
  • Keep a pen and paper or whiteboard and marker in your emergency supply kit.  

Sensory disabilities  

  • Consider a small pop-up tent; it can be used to decrease visual stimulation in a busy room or to provide privacy.  
  • Pack headphones to decrease auditory distractions.  
  • Keep a pair of dark glasses to assist with visual simulation.  

If you require medications, keep a list of all medications, dosage, and allergies. Keep a copy of your medical information including a list of your prescriptions and prescribers. 



If you don’t need to evacuate, you can use your go-bag as your stay-kit if you need to shelter in place. Consider arrangements for care providers who take care of you at home.  

Make a plan to ensure you can continue to receive care if there is an order to shelter in place. Consider overnight stay plans in your home for your care provider. 



Sign up for a medical baseline program to receive assistance if you rely on power for certain medical needs. Participation in a medical baseline program is important to ensure you receive additional notification of upcoming or current power outages which may occur during extreme weather events. 

If you use medical equipment in your home that requires electricity, talk to your doctor or health care provider about how to keep it running during a power outage. You can also ask your power provider to put you on a list for priority power restoration. 

If you use a generator, only use it outdoors and at least 20 feet away from your home. Do not use a generator in rainy or wet conditions. If a generator is unavailable, follow the tips below to help you and your family stay warm without electricity. 

  • Wear several layers of lightweight, warm clothing. Wear hats, mittens, slippers and blankets indoors. 
  • Close curtains and cover windows and doors with blankets for additional insulation. 
  • Never use charcoal or gas grills or propane heaters indoors. Odorless, invisible fumes from charcoal, gas, and propane can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. Using these heaters indoors can also increase the risk of fire. 
  • If your home has a wood-burning or gas fireplace, you can use it carefully to stay warm if the power goes out during extreme cold weather. Follow your fireplace’s safety manual and use caution to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning or risk of home fire. Do not use a gas stove or oven to heat your home. 


Develop a proactive plan with your support network in case of emergency or evacuation. Identify individuals in your life such as family, friends, and neighbors, who could help support you and check in on you. Taking care of each other is crucial to staying safe.  

Remember, creating an emergency preparedness plan based on your personal needs is critical to ensure you and your loved ones remain safe during a winter storm or disaster.