Emergency Preparedness

You never know when an emergency or disaster will strike

Emergency Preparedness Autism Disaster Kit

Emergency Preparedness Autism Disaster Kit

With the weather becoming seemingly more erratic these days, it’s more important than ever to make sure you have a 72-hour kit assembled for each family member ready to go. It could be the difference between life and death. Remember that it could take emergency personnel at least three days to reach you in the event of a disaster.

Being very involved in CERT, I gratefully learned what should be in every Disaster Preparedness Kit. For a great list of these basic items, click here.

However, as parents of children with Autism, we have the added pressure of helping them feel safe and maintain as much routine and order as possible during a time of great chaos. In addition to your general 72-hour kit, consider having these items on hand in a special grab-n-go bag for your children.

Find a bag that can be worn as a backpack or rolled behind you so you are prepared for any situation. You should try to pack a combination of your child’s favorite items and new things they’ve never seen – such as items from the Dollar Store. My children love opening new things, even the tiniest trinket or gadget. New keeps them busy, and busy = calm!


Here are supplemental items found in my son’s 72-hour kit:

Flushable wipes – he has serious “potty” issues, we cannot yet use standard toilet paper for bathroom functions. We would be in big trouble without these.

Special foods/snacks – if your child is on a special diet or has food sensitivities, consider packing natural, dye-free, gluten free snacks and foods. I know it’s hard to stay natural when you’re packing processed foods that need to keep for six months at a time, but there are definitely ways to choose “the lesser evil”.

Medications or supplements – we have an extra bottle packed of Juice Plus+, digestive enzymes, and probiotics that don’t need refrigeration.

Headphones/ear plugs – everyday noises are still too much for son; imagine the chaos of sirens, emergency personnel, or crowds of people milling about or frantically trying to reach safety. Noise-blocking headphones are a lifesaver for us.

Classical or favorite music – if your child enjoys music, an iPod or discman with classical music or your child’s favorite songs can have a tremendous calming effect. We have a copy of Wow Wow Wubbzy in addition to Tchaikovsky.

Duplicate of their attachment item if possible – I always keep items from Super Mario Brothers (I remember when it was Thomas!) in his bag for comfort. Believe me, we already had two of many of his favorite Mario items!

Fidgets/chewy tubes – keeping his hands and mouth busy is another key to feeling safe and calm. I love those squishy stress balls from the Dollar Store, especially the ones that light up! Chewy tubes or Chewelry keep him chewing, not blurting out verbal stims, which might send the wrong message to emergency workers (his screams are really loud and sound like someone is getting brutally injured).

Cards/puzzles/books – kick it old school and think of items that kept you busy growing up! You know, before there were DSi XLs, iPhones, apps, tablets… :)

Handheld battery operated electronics – if electronics are a must (the kind that don’t require a charger) the drug store often will sell little handheld games like Tetris, Poker, or Soccer. Sure, the graphics are pretty bad compared to today’s amazing technology, but in this situation your kids will gratefully take ‘em!

Hooded shirt or sweatshirt – for my son, he sometimes needs to block the world out in order to self-calm. If you don’t have access to a sensory tent (wouldn’t that be nice in a disaster!) then the next best thing is pulling a hood over your face and blocking out the world for a bit.

Items to stack/count/organize – this has always saved our bacon when I used to venture out to public places like restaurants. Stacking the jellies or counting the sugar packets would buy me at least 10 minutes of me not having to chase him around!

Photos of family members – in case there is any chance you are separated from your child, each family member having family photos may be the quickest way to reunite.

Autism safety card – it is ideal to let emergency responders know as much about your child as possible – especially when it comes to Autism. Is your child verbal? How do they best communicate? Are there any other medical issues? What medications/supplements are they on? Allergies? Typical behaviors? Fears? Below is an example of one I made for my son when we first moved back to Atlanta and didn’t know anyone in our new neighborhood.

Autism Safety Card

Autism Safety Card

I hope you found this list helpful, and that you NEVER HAVE TO USE IT! Remember to change out the perishable items every six months, and have an emergency plan that you all practice together.