Special needs

When preparing for emergencies, the term 'special needs' can cover a number of situations, not just someone with an identified mental or physical disability. An elderly person, someone with limited English, a pregnant woman, someone with a broken leg, or a single parent with many children all need additional help.

If you have a neighbour  with 'special needs' discuss their needs and make sure you understand each other's expectations, in the event of an emergency. Check up on people who might need your help, mindful of privacy concerns people might have, and being aware of examples of how people can help each other:

  • Older people living at home by themselves
  • People with physical or sensory disabilities
  • People with a chronic illness or with a mental illness
  • Single parents with young children
  • Large families with more children than adults
  • People newly arrived to the area, including tourists, refugees or newly arrived immigrants


People with physical or sensory disabilities will require additional help and again you could subtly lead them into a conversation about what they have planned in case of natural disasters. The local SES welcomes information about people with special needs who might require additional help to get to a shelter.

Someone who is visually impaired might be extremely reluctant to leave familiar surroundings when the request for evacuation comes from a stranger. A guide dog could become confused or disoriented during 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.

Examples of ways in which you may be able to assist others prepare:

  • Bill has a sensory disability and needs someone to let him know when weather warnings are issued and cancelled.
  • Joan is unable to lift heavy objects and will need help to raise her furniture when flooding is imminent.
  • If the power is disrupted, Jack will need assistance to prepare meals and to contact his family.
  • Sally is in a wheel chair and will need assistance to secure loose items around her property.


In the spirit of assisting those with special needs, some organisations have produced resources particularly for the hearing-impaired. Cairns Regional Council has released an AUSLAN (Australian Sign Language) video of cyclone preparedness information. Emergency Management Queensland publishes an emergency plan resource for the family and carers of those with a disability, and presents several AUSLAN videos of the steps involved in the resource.