Preparedness for Access and Functional Needs (AFN)


A support network for those with access and functional needs (AFN) is very important. Some specific preparedness considerations for AFN includes the continuation of needed services, medications, medical supplies, and mobility.


  • Build a support network and communicate your disaster needs to them.
  • Talk with your health care providers about your needed services, medications and medical equipment use in disasters.

Access and Functional Needs (AFN)

Disability intersects every demographic group—there are people with disabilities of all ages, races, genders or national origin. And, disabilities can impact a person in a variety of ways—both visible and invisible.

Access and Functional Needs includes anyone with physical disability, hearing impairment, sight impairment, language barriers, cultural barriers, economic disparity, the very elderly, the very young, mental or cognitive disabilities, etc. People who are temporarily recovering from surgery or sickness that makes them unable to do what they could normally do makes them someone with an access or functional need.

For people with disabilities and their families, it is important to consider individual circumstances and needs to effectively prepare for emergencies and disasters.

Make a Plan

Build a Support Network

Establishing solid relationships with other people is one of the most effective means of surviving a disaster. Create a network of trusted individuals such as family, friends, co-workers, personal attendants, and others who can assist you during an emergency. Familiarize your network with your functional abilities and limitations, and include them in your emergency planning process.

Service Providers

If you have service providers that help you with your specific needs, talk with them about their plans for disasters. When disaster strikes, you may end up without the services you are used to. If so what are some alternatives?

Local Emergency Managers are Preparing and Planning for Individuals with Special Needs:

If you or someone close to you has a disability or a special need, you may have to take additional steps to protect yourself and your family in an emergency. The State of Utah offers individuals and organizations the opportunity to sign up for a voluntary Special Needs Registry to help emergency managers plan according to specific needs of their communities.

Utah Special Needs Registry

Disability/Special Need Additional Steps
Visually impaired May be extremely reluctant to leave familiar surroundings when the request for evacuation comes from a stranger. A guide dog could become confused or disoriented in a disaster. People who are blind or partially sighted may have to depend on others to lead them, as well as their dog, to safety during a disaster.
Hearing impaired May need to make special arrangements to receive warnings.
Mobility impaired May need special assistance to get to a shelter.
Single working parent May need help to plan for disasters and emergencies.
Non-English speaking persons May need assistance planning for and responding to emergencies. Community and cultural groups may be able to help keep people informed.
People without vehicles May need to make arrangements for transportation.
People with special dietary needs Should take special precautions to have an adequate emergency food supply.
People with medical conditions Should know the location and availability of more than one facility if dependent on a dialysis machine or other life-sustaining equipment or treatment.
People with intellectual disabilities May need help responding to emergencies and getting to a shelter.
People with dementia Should be registered in the Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return Program

If you have special needs: Find out about special assistance that may be available in your community. Register with the office of emergency services or the local fire department for assistance so needed help can be provided.

Get a Kit

A kit for someone with access and functional needs (AFN) will still include many of the items suggested for everyone. However someone with AFN will need to consider their specific needs to also include in their kit. Here are some common considerations. 

Medications and Medical Supplies

If you take medicine or use a medical treatment on a daily basis, be sure you have what you need on hand to make it on your own for at least a week. You should also keep a copy of your prescriptions as well as dosage or treatment information. If it is not possible to have a week-long supply of medicines and supplies, keep as much as possible on hand and talk to your pharmacist or doctor about what else you should do to prepare.

If you undergo routine treatments administered by a clinic or hospital or if you receive regular services such as home health care, treatment or transportation, talk to your service provider about their emergency plans. Work with them to identify back-up service providers within your area and the areas you might evacuate to. If you use medical equipment in your home that requires electricity to operate, talk to your health care provider about what you can do to prepare for its use during a power outage.

In addition, there may be other things specific to your personal needs that you should also have on hand. If you use eyeglasses, hearing aids and hearing aid batteries, wheelchair batteries, and oxygen, be sure you always have extras in your home. Also have copies of your medical insurance, Medicare and Medicaid cards readily available.

Mobility and Transportation

Consider how you plan to transport yourself and your emergency supplies. It may be important to pre-stage your disaster supplies at the location you intend to go to in the event of a disaster. If you have special mobility or transportation considerations, make sure your support network knows in advance, and prepare a way to accommodate those needs. 

Be Informed

I. American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Other Laws as Pertaining to Disaster Preparedness for People with Disabilities

Access Board. Resources on Emergency Evacuation and Disaster Preparedness.

American Association of People with Disabilities. (2006). U.S. Disability Law Covers Foreign Cruise Ships

Comstock, D. (2005). ADA Decision Heralds New Safety Thinking. Fire Chief.

Connecticut State Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities. Emergency Shelter Accessibility Checklist an Assessment Tool for Emergency Management Staff and Volunteers

Connecticut State Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities.  Universal access and sheltering: Space and Floor Planning Considerations.

Fadale, Anthony. Kansas ADA Coordinator. Memo and Outline on Guidance for Agencies during Emergency Management/COOP. a. Memo  b. Outline

Landmark Settlement Requires Accessible Evacuation Procedures at all Marshall’s Stores Nationwide

University of California, Berkley (2008). Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Universal Design Resource.

U.S. Department on Homeland Security, Interagency Coordinating Council on Emergency Preparedness and Individuals with Disabilities.  Disability Law: Know your Rights.

U.S. Department of Justice.

 ADA Best Practices Tool Kit for State and Local Governments

U.S. Department of Home Land Security, Interagency Coordinating Council on Emergency Preparedness and Individuals with Disabilities. (2006). Individuals with disabilities in emergency preparedness Executive Order 1334: Progress report. [report]. Washington, D.C.

II. Business Preparedness Plans for People with Disabilities

Hawthorne, Nan. Emergency Plans That Include Workers with Disabilities.

National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA). Emergency Evacuation Planning Guide for People with Disabilities (search under disabilities for reports on persons with disabilities).

Secretary of Transportation.  Emergency Preparedness for People with Disabilities.

Batiste, Linda Carter and Beth Loy (2004). Employers’ Guide to Including Employees with Disabilities in Emergency Evacuation Plans.

FEMA and US Fire Administration. Emergency Procedures for Employees with Disabilities in Office Occupancies.

National Center on Emergency Planning for People with Disabilities. Checklist for Public and Private Organization for Planning for Individuals with Disabilities on the Job.

U.S. Department of Labor. (2005). Effective Emergency Preparedness Planning: Addressing the Needs of Employees with Disabilities.

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Fact Sheet on Obtaining and Using Employee Medical Information as Part of Emergency Evacuation Procedures.

III. Clearinghouses on Emergency Management and Disabilities

American Association on Health and Disability (2008). Annotated Bibliography on Emergency Preparedness and Response for People with Disabilities.

American Association of Persons with Disabilities. Emergency Preparedness and People with Disabilities: Guidelines, Plans, and Bibliography Resources.

HSD Public Policy and Research Institute Homeland Security. DEMIN, PPRI Disaster and Emergency Management Information Network, Data, and Web Based Bibliographic Information Sources. Online Resources for Americans with Disabilities.

University of Colorado, Natural Hazard Center. Natural Hazards and Disasters
Information Resources Guide.

IV. Emergency Management Planning

FEMA and DHS Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. (2008). Interim Emergency Management Planning for Guide for Special Needs Populations. Version 1.0. Comprehensive Preparedness Guide (CPG) 301.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Public Health Emergency Response Guide for State, Local, and Tribal Public Health Directors.

FEMA. Accommodating Individuals with Disabilities in the Provision of Disaster Mass Care, Housing, and Human Services Reference Guide.

FEMA. (2001). FEMA Emergency Procedures: Special Equipment and Devices.

National Organization on Disability. Guide on the Special Needs of People with Disabilities for Emergency Managers, Planners and Responders

Sorensen, Barbara Vogt. Oak Ridge National Laboratory Populations with Special Needs.

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (2001). Fact Sheet on Obtaining and Using Employee Medical Information as Part of Emergency Evacuation Procedures.

University of Arizona. Tips for First Responders

V. Emergency Management Research and Disabilities

U.S. Department of Education (April 2008).  Emergency Management Research and People with Disabilities Resource Guide.

VI. Individual Preparedness for Persons with Disabilities

Kailes, J. I. Emergency Evacuation Preparedness: Taking Responsibility for Your Safety. A Guide for People with Disabilities and Other Activity Limitation.

American Red Cross. Tips for Seniors and People with Disabilities

Disability Resources Monthly (DRM) Web watcher. Disaster Preparedness for Persons with Disabilities (also link to resources by state).

IN.Gov. Indiana Protection and Advocacy Services.

ILRU. Disaster Preparedness for Persons with Disabilities Preparedness Checklist for Evacuation and Checklist For Staying in Place.

Kansas Disability Commission. Emergency Preparedness Information Network

National Organization on Disability (NOD) Emergency Preparedness Initiative

Homeland Security.  Emergency Preparedness Plan for Disabled.

Krumpe, A. & White, E. (2207). Emergency Preparedness Toolkit for Persons with Disabilities. Virginia Commonwealth University and Virginal Leadership in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities. Prep Toolkit FINAL April 2007.pdf

FEMA. Special Needs Specific Disaster Preparedness.

Disability Personal Preparedness Planning.

National Organization on Disability. Disaster Readiness Tips for People with Disabilities.

U.S. Department of Transportation. Emergency Preparedness and Individuals with Disabilities.

American Physical Therapy Association. Reference Guide to Emergency Preparedness for People with Disabilities and Special Needs.

VII. Mapping and/or Assessment of Disability Populations

BRFSS maps by state on disabilities

National Organization on Disabilities (NOD). Emergency Preparedness Initiative. Interactive Map of Disability and Emergency Preparedness Resources

National Association of State Directors of Mental Development Disabilities Services. Emergency Response Preparedness Self Assessment Instrument.

University of South Carolina Hazards and Vulnerability Research Institute (November 2006). Social Vulnerability Maps and Data by Counties in Kansas.

Mobile App - AFN Tips for First Responders

Use this mobile app to quickly access tips for how to respond to those with access and functional needs in the event of an emergency or disaster. 

Use the App
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Access and Functional Needs Web-Based Training

ASPR has developed the HHS/ ASPR Access and Functional Needs (AFN) Web-Based Training to help public health officials, emergency managers, and social/human service providers learn how to address access and functional needs in disaster preparedness, response, and recovery.

AFN Training