Natural Disasters – Ruminating on Special Needs

Natural disasters are kind of disastrous. Go figure. Having just gone through Hurricane Irma, and now reading this post from Kveller, and having disabled members in our family, it got me thinking about our preparations and readiness.

We made it through Irma with no problems. We were lucky when so many others were not. But we were ready. At least, I think we were ready. Our home was shuttered up with metal hurricane shutters. We brought in the camping gear, because it doubles as a hurricane kit (camp stoves, lanterns, those mini green propane bottles, et al.). We filled the tub with water in case we lost water and needed to flush and/or wash. We filled the fridge with containers of water to drink. We had cases of water and gallons of water and filled the big orange cooler with ice when we couldn’t find more water to buy. We had canned food, frozen food, instant food, and the obligatory cache of liquor and snacks. Everyone had enough meds for at least two weeks. We were ready. I paid no mind to our special needs.

The Tuesday before she hit, we dropped M off at Boy Scouts and went running around for some last-minute items. Then we picked M up and since we weren’t quite done, we went to the store with M. M is now 15, and most days we can go autism, what autism? I mean, not entirely, but passable. Not on this day. On this day, he was verbally stimming non stop. Rambling about everything, singing, giving a narrative of what we were doing as we did it. And an hour later it dawns on Michael and I, hey, maybe he’s nervous and this is how he is expressing it? So we asked. And we got a kind of noncommittal noise and a shrug. To which the obvious answer was to reassure him our home is secure, we’re not in a flood zone, we have a plan, the same things I’ve been telling my out-of-state family for hours, and as it turns out, would continue telling them for the next few days.

When I say no problems, I mean it. You would barely know we had a storm if not for the house being closed up and the groaning of high speed winds against the house and the screeching of bending and breaking trees outside. Inside all was normal. My boys were holed up in their rooms gaming on their computers and chatting with friends. My girl was crafting in her room or chatting in my room. We had a Netflix marathon (go watch The Ranch). We made family dinner. We played Cards Against Humanity. The usual. At the end, when we were able to emerge from our cave, I found out that Irma saved me at least $600 dollars in tree trimming. Normally I’m not a glass is half full kind of person, but in this case… totally.

But we had Go-Bags. I had everyone pack a new one with a couple of days of clothes and anything they felt they couldn’t replace (my irreplaceable was my hard drive with decades worth of photos on it). This was more if we had to bug out after, in case the house was not safe. That said, if we had to leave during, I knew where my local shelter was, even though we couldn’t go there. Why not? We have pets, and the local pet-friendly shelter was too far away to bother with. I didn’t even worry about find out about the special needs shelter. I didn’t think we needed it. In retrospect, I still don’t think we would need it.

But what if we did? I have no idea how M would react in a building full of 10,000 other anxious people. I don’t think *I* would react well come to think of it. I have no idea if I, or E, would need medical attention if we had to evacuate. What if she had a breakthrough migraine? What if one of us dislocated something badly? I was in a wheelchair just the week before at Epcot because I was suddenly having a major flare-up of some kind in my hip.

Just like in the article I linked to, we don’t need dialysis, or oxygen, or suctioning, or any number of other serious medical needs. I would feel legitimately guilty taking up space in a special needs shelter when I suspect someone with more severe needs possibly needed our spot. Come to think of it, even when my very handicapped sister was still alive, we didn’t look into special needs shelters, because we could handle her needs. That doesn’t make our collective needs less, just different, and different we’ve learned we can handle. 

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