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Disability Advocates Help Vulnerable Stay Organized During Emergencies

Independent Living Center
Independent Living Center's marketing director Tyler Morris explains the group's Action-Plan Workbook to attendees of the 2015 Emergency Preparedness Conference in July.

Jacksonville residents are bracing for the possibility of a Category 1 hurricane. Many are buying water and stocking up on batteries.

For people living with disabilities, preparation involves more steps.

The Independent Living Resource Center has a new guide to help them keep an emergency from becoming a tragedy.

Duval Emergency Preparedness Director Steve Woodard has a simple message for Jacksonville residents.

“Make sure we’re prepared as individuals, as families and as communities,” Woodard said.

But what about those who are already at increased risk as a result of a disability?

That’s where the Independent Living Resource Center comes in.

On Friday afternoon, the center’s Teri Duke is trying to book a sign-language interpreter in case the mayor needs to address the city about the storm threat.

It’s just one of the services the center offers. The group’s marketing director Tyler Morris says it’s also offering an action-plan workbook. It’s meant to be part preparation checklist, part emergency medical I.D.

“Each of these topics are tailored directly to the person that’s filling it out,” Morris said. “It talks about what type of medication are you receiving, what medication level, who is your pharmacist — all information for them to make a grab-and-go folder for them during an emergency.”

And the pre-printed checklist can help people stay organized.  Another tip: Register with the city’s special-needs registry before the storm hits.

That’s available at

Ryan Benk is a former WJCT News reporter who joined the station in 2015 after working as a news researcher and reporter for NPR affiliate WFSU in Tallahassee.