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Winter Emergency Preparedness Tips for Special Needs Families

Particularly in northern climates, winter's icy embrace brings not just thick blankets of snow, but unique challenges, especially for families with adult children who have special needs. As temperatures plummet and storms loom, it’s crucial to create emergency preparedness plans and kits for your loved ones.

Here’s how your special needs family can navigate winter's trials with peace of mind.

Consider Your Family’s Potential Needs in an Emergency

The first and perhaps most important emergency preparedness tip is to make a list of everything your family and special needs child would need in different likely scenarios, including:

  • Getting snowed in at home

  • Experiencing power outages at home

  • Developing signs of hypothermia during outdoor activities

  • Encountering vehicle-related road emergencies, such as car breakdowns or roads made impassible by snow or ice

Make a Plan for Needs in Different Scenarios

You’ll need to make a plan to address things like medical needs, mobility issues, communication barriers, and emergency supplies, depending on where the emergency takes place. Here are some key areas in which you should make preparations.

Dress Properly

Make sure that all family members are dressed appropriately whenever they go outside or leave home — even for short periods of time — in case of an outdoor or roadside emergency. Everyone should wear layers, waterproof insulated coats and shoes, gloves, and head and neck coverings.

Stay Informed

Pay attention to the latest weather forecasts and any emergency precaution advice from local authorities. Ensure that you have a way to receive emergency alerts (such as weather app or government phone notifications).

Emergency Kits

Create emergency kits to keep in your home, vehicle (such as a winter roadside emergency kit), and the place your adult child spends most of their time, such as their community living arrangement (CLA) or workplace, if applicable. Customize the kits to provide for your special needs child alone or everyone in the family, depending on the scenario.

Communication Plan

Ensure that all family members know how to contact each other in an emergency. Identify and connect with local emergency services and support networks that can provide assistance during a crisis — before it occurs.

Home Safety

Ensure that your home is winter-proofed against cold temperatures, with adequate heating and insulation. Keep your front path and sidewalk clear of ice and snow whenever possible. Keep extra non-perishable food, medication supplies, batteries, battery-powered light sources, and an emergency radio in your home.

Outdoor Safety

Understand the signs of hypothermia and frostbite. Take steps to prevent them, but also educate yourself about what to do if your special needs child or other family member develops symptoms of these.

Be Well Prepared With Progressive Lifestyles

Progressive Lifestyles, Inc. is dedicated to providing innovative support services for people with disabilities. Our mission is to provide supportive and caring residential opportunities for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities throughout Oakland County, Michigan, as well as resources for caregivers.

A primary focus of our organization is to interact with the individuals we support through the “Culture of Gentleness” model. We seek to create a positive environment to help them feel safe and valued while maximizing praise, limiting demands, maintaining consistent structure, and reducing stress during transitions. Contact us to learn more about how we can support your special needs family today!



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