LGBTQ disaster preparedness: What to remember
With Hurricanes Harvey and Irma hitting the US, and the possibility of more storms that could threaten the country, here are some reminders on LGBTQ disaster preparedness.
While the LGBTQ community needs to consider important things to do to prepare against natural disasters (or any other public health emergencies), there are some things that are unique to our needs and circumstances.
For example, LGBT youth experience higher rates of homelessness, which makes them more difficult to reach during emergencies.
On the other hand, it’s more likely that LGBT seniors are living isolated and have family members around as compared to other seniors. Because of this, they may need to additional assistance.
Meanwhile, many LGBTQ couples and families still don’t have legally recognized relationships so first responders may not recognize these relationships during an emergency.
Also, transgender people may not be able to access shelter that’s matched to their affirmed gender identity or they don’t receive culturally sensitive health care.
Last of all, it’s been documented that some LGBT people are wary of first responders and health care systems because of prior discriminatory experience.
So what should LGBTQ people do before, during, and after natural disaster emergencies?
LGBTQ disaster preparedness: Get ready for anything
Those who live in hurricane areas know the best way to survive hurricane season is to always be prepared.
That means putting together the standard preparedness kit for your basic survival needs. However, you also need to ensure your kit takes into account your specific health and legal needs, especially as a transgender person.
For example, transgender people were subjected to harassment after Hurricane Katrina hit as they had a difficult time accessing emergency services and shelters because of their gender identity and expression.
Some were even arrested and went to jail because they used gender-appropriate showers in shelter facilities.
Meanwhile, others forgot important items like hormones and cosmetics.
That’s why it’s important to ensure you have a disaster plan and your hurricane preparedness kit. Also get your medical, documentation and other personal items that you need, as well as important contact information.
LGBTQ disaster preparedness: Make plans for disasters
Future planning will ensure that you and your loved ones know what to during an emergency. This means making up a detailed plan that includes:
1. A neighborhood meeting place
2. An out-of-town meeting place
3. Emergency contact numbers
4. Work and school numbers
Gathering important documents and putting them in a safe place is essential, given if your family lives in a state that doesn’t recognize second-parent or joint adoption, nor marriage equality.
Even if you and your partner are legally recognized, you may have to travel somewhere that doesn’t recognize that relationship.
To this end, keep five copies of your legal documents and do the following:
1. Put one copy in a safe place at home
2. Put one copy in a thumb drive for easy access
3. Keep one copy in your disaster kit
4. Keep one copy in a safety deposit box at your local bank or a friend’s house
5. Email the last copy to yourself or saved in online storage
These documents may range from your marriage/domestic partner/civil union license to your adoption decrees and your birth certificates.
Also make sure you have documents of your wills, powers of attorney, and living will/advanced directive.
For transgender people, they should have the following:
1. Court orders for name and/or gender change
2. Identification, including passport (a letter from your therapist or doctor if you don’t have identification matching your gender)
LGBTQ disaster preparedness: Your emergency kit
With regard to emergency kits, it’s highly recommended that you prepare the following:
1. Water and non-perishable food for at least three days
2. A warm blanket
3. Clothing that includes rain gear and sturdy shoes
4. First aid kit, prescription medications (including hormones), extra glasses
5. Toiletries, hygiene items, moisture wipes
6. Flashlight and extra batteries
7. Local maps
8. Battery operated radio (also extra batteries)
9. Cell phone with chargers, inverter, or solar charger
10. Cash or traveler’s checks and change
11. Manual can opener for food
12. Toys, books, and games (if you have kids)
13. A waterproof container or watertight resealable plastic bag for your important documents
14. Tools (such as a wrench or pliers) to turn off utilities)
15. Dust mask, plastic sheeting, and duct tape
16. Filled vehicle fuel tanks
17. Baby care items (if you have a baby)
18. Pet care items (if you have pets)
19. Other medical like copies of prescriptions, syringes, alcohol swabs, etc. for required injectable medications, and dilators
Check out this website for further details of your kit: www.ready.gov/basic-disaster-supplies-kit
Transgender peoples may also need the following:
3. Binding, packing e(e.g. ace bandages, gaffs, packies”)
LGBTQ disaster preparedness: Who to call
Here are some numbers you may need to have to help you out during an emergency:
Lambda Legal National Help Desks:
Toll free: (866) 542-8336
Dallas: (214) 219-8585
Atlanta: (404) 897-1880
National Center for Transgender Equality: (202) 642-4542, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Family Equality Council: (617) 502-8700
FEMA Helpline: 1(800)621-3362
Check out more information at the National Weather Service’s Hurricane Awareness:
Of course, you can still call 911 if you have a medical emergency or need immediate attention.
For other information, you can check your local LGBTQ organization near you.