Disabilities, Access & Functional Needs

People with disabilities or access and functional needs must take additional steps when making a plan to be prepared.

Ready New York: My Emergency Plan

Ready New York: My Emergency Plan is a workbook designed to assist New Yorkers with disabilities or access and functional needs create an emergency plan. My Emergency Plan walks users through establishing a support network, capturing important health information, planning for evacuation, and gathering emergency supplies. First responders or caregivers can also use the workbook to help people during an emergency.

Stay Informed

One of the best ways to be prepared for an emergency is to stay informed.

Notify NYC

Notify NYC, the City of New York's official source of information about emergency events and important City services, will alert New Yorkers if there is an emergency in your area. Notify NYC messages are available through many formats, including email, text messages, telephone, the Notify NYC website, RSS, Twitter, and American Sign Language videos.

To register for Notify NYC, get the free Notify NYC mobile application for iOS and Android, visit NYC.gov/notifynyc, contact 311 (212-639-9675 for Video Relay Service, or TTY: 212-504-4115) or follow @NotifyNYC on Twitter.

Ready NYC App

The Ready NYC mobile application for Apple and Android gives you the power to be prepared by allowing you to make and store an emergency plan on your mobile device, and share your plan with your support network.

Advance Warning System

The Advance Warning System provides hazard and emergency information to agencies and organizations that serve people with disabilities or others with access and functional needs throughout New York City. The program is managed by NYC Emergency Management and the NYC Department of Health & Mental Hygiene.

Communication

An emergency can affect your normal way of communicating with others. Develop a support network that can assist you during an emergency. This should consist of local and out-of area contacts, and include family, friends, neighbors, home attendants, coworkers, and/or members of community groups. Make sure to go over your plan with your contacts. Record the ways you prefer to communicate with others (e.g., email, sms/text, video relay, text telephone, etc.); that way, first responders can contact your support network in the event you are unable to communicate.

Tips

  • If you have a vision disability, be prepared to explain to others how to best guide you.
  • If you have a cognitive or emotional disability, be prepared for changes in in your environment.
  • If you have a hearing disability, practice communicating your needs through gestures, note cards, text messages, or other means. You may, for example, want to write down instructions so that first responders can read what you need, such as whether you need a Sign Language interpreter.
  • You can request police, fire, and medical assistance from public pay phones and/or emergency call boxes. For more information, visit the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities online.

Take Steps to Prepare

  • Provide your emergency contacts with a spare key so they can access your building.
  • Inform your contacts where you keep your Go Bag and emergency supply kit.
  • Make copies of important documents, including health information.
  • If you receive home-based care (e.g., home care attendant, home health aide, visiting nurse service), include caregivers in developing your plan and familiarize yourself with your homecare agency's emergency plan.
  • If you have a pet, emotional support or service animal, be alert and plan for his or her needs. During an emergency, pets, emotional support and service animals can become stressed.
  • Consider your dietary needs and always stock nonperishable food at home in case you have to shelter in place during an emergency.
  • If you take medication, make a list of the medications you take, why you take them, and their dosages. Remember: emergencies can affect your ability to access medications. Don't wait until the last minute to refill your prescription medications.
  • If you receive dialysis, chemotherapy, or other life-sustaining treatment, find out whether there is a back-up location so your service is not interrupted.
  • If you or anyone in your home depends on electrically-powered life-sustaining medical equipment (such as a ventilator or cardiac device), receives dialysis or has limited mobility, there are specific steps you should take to prepare for a coastal storm. Learn more from the NYC Department of Health & Mental Hygiene

Gather Supplies for Your Needs

Go Bag

Consider adding the following supplies to your Go Bag — a collection of items you may need in the event of an evacuation:
  • Manuals and extra batteries for any devices you use
  • Notepad and pen to communicate
  • Emergency health information card
  • Aerosol tire repair kits and/or tire inflator to repair flat wheelchair or scooter tires
  • Magnifying glasses
  • Extra mobility canes
  • Supplies for your pets or service animal (e.g., extra water, bowl, leash, plastic bags, toys and treats, etc.)
  • Back-up medical equipment such as glasses, batteries, or phone charger
  • Items to comfort you in a stressful situation

Emergency Supply Kit

Consider adding the following items to your emergency supply kit, which should include enough supplies to survive on your own for up to seven days:

  • Back-up medical equipment such as oxygen, medication, scooter battery, hearing aids, mobility aids, and glasses
  • Whistle or bell
  • Numbers of medical devices and instructions
  • Supplies for pet or service animal (e.g., food, extra water, bowl, leash, plastic bags, toys and treats, and contact information for your veterinarian, etc.)
  • Contact information for your doctors and pharmacy

Evacuation and Sheltering

Transportation Considerations

Before an emergency, call 311 to locate accessible transportation options. These can include the MTA subways and buses, Access-A-Ride, and accessible taxis. To locate additional information about accessible transportation for people with disabilities access and functional needs, visit www.mta.info.

  • According to the MTA, there are nearly 6,000 accessible buses that provide service and 109 accessible subway stations. Accessible subway stations include features such as elevators, ramps, and tactile warning strips. Visit www.mta.info for more information.
  • New Yorkers are encouraged to sign up for Access-A-Ride before an emergency. Those who are unable to travel on the MTA subways and buses can use Access-A-Ride if they qualify. This service is a shared-ride service and can transport individuals door-to-door.
  • Accessible taxis are available through the accessible dispatch system, and there are five ways to book an accessible taxi. To find out more information about these services, visit NYC.gov/mopd.
  • If these options do not meet your needs and you require immediate assistance, call 911.

Evacuation Transportation for People with Disabilities & Others with Access or Functional Needs

When the Mayor has issued an evacuation order due to a coastal storm or hurricane, people with disabilities or other access or functional needs, who have no other options to evacuate safely, can request transportation assistance by contacting 311.

Depending on your need, you will either be taken to:

  • An accessible evacuation center in an accessible vehicle, OR
  • A hospital outside of the evacuation zone by ambulance.

You may not be able to request transportation to a specific address.

Specific instructions about which areas of the City should be evacuated will be communicated through various channels. If you live or are staying in an evacuation zone and your zone is ordered to evacuate, leave as soon as you can.

Use public transportation to evacuate if possible. When considering your transportation route, be aware that public transportation, including MTA's Access-A-Ride, may shut down hours before the storm arrives.

Sheltering Considerations

When an emergency strikes, it is important to seek safe shelter. Some emergencies may require you to shelter in place, while other emergencies may require evacuation. Be ready to explain to first responders and emergency workers that you need to evacuate and how you will need to be assisted.
  • In the event of a coastal storm or hurricane, the City may open evacuation centers for those are unable to stay with family or friends outside the evacuation zone. For a list of evacuation centers near you, including accessible evacuation centers, visit the Hurricane Evacuation Zone Finder online at NYC.gov/knowyourzone, or call 311.

Plan for Power Disruptions

Ask your utility company whether your medical equipment qualifies you to be listed as a life-sustaining equipment customer (LSE). For those who rely on electric-powered medical equipment at home (e.g., respirators, dialysis machines, apnea monitors), please register with your utility provider so you can be contacted in the event of an emergency.

While registering with your utility provider is an important preparedness step, people who use electric-powered medical equipment should have an emergency plan. Consider the following:

  • Make sure to charge all medical and communications devices before the power goes out.
  • An alternate source of electric power, such as a battery back-up system.
  • If using a generator be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions, local building codes, and ensure that it's in a well-ventilated area.
  • Include variety of telephone options (land-line, cordless, cellular) if possible.
  • If you rely on oxygen, talk to your vendor about emergency replacements. In the event that you do not have access to oxygen, call 911 for immediate assistance.
  • If you or anyone in your home depends on electrically-powered life-sustaining medical equipment (such as a ventilator or cardiac device), receives dialysis or has limited mobility, there are specific steps you should take to prepare for a coastal storm. Learn more from the NYC Department of Health & Mental Hygiene

Depending on your provider, other programs may be available if you need extra time to pay your utility bill due to medical conditions.

If utilities are included in your rent, you are still eligible to register for this program directly with the utility company.

Register with Your Utility Provider

  • If you are a Con Edison customer (serving all of NYC except the Rockaways), you may register by calling 1-800-752-6633 (TTY: 1-800-642-2308). For more information, visit Con Edison's special services website.
  • If you are a PSEG-LI customer (serving the Rockaways), you may register by calling 1-800-490-0025 (TTY: 1-631-755-6660). For more information, visit PSEG's Critical Care program online.
  • If you are a National Grid NYC customer (serving Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island), call 718-643-4050 (or dial 711 for New York State Relay Service). Customers can also visit National Grid online.
  • If you are a National Grid Long Island customer (serving the Rockaways), call 1-800-930-5003. Customers can also visit National Grid online.

For more information about planning for utility disruptions, visit the Plan for Hazards: Utility Disruptions page.

More Resources

Get Involved

Frequently Asked Questions

The following frequently asked questions focus on the City's planning and services for people with disabilities or access and functional needs.

General Questions

What is the best way to get updated information about emergencies in New York City?

  • Sign up for Notify NYC, the City's official source for information about emergencies and important City services by visiting NYC.gov/notifynyc, by calling 311 or follow @NotifyNYC on Twitter. Registration is free. Subscribers can receive alerts in seven ways: phone, email, SMS, fax, BlackBerry PIN, Instant Messenger, and Twitter. Messages are available in multiple languages including American Sign Language video format.

I have a disability. Is there an emergency list I can register with for help in times of emergency?

  • New York City does not have a registry for people with disabilities. The City encourages all New Yorkers to plan and prepare for an emergency according to their personal needs. However, if you rely on electrically powered medical equipment, your utility provider may have a program so that you can be notified in the event of a potential power outage. Ask your utility company whether your medical equipment qualifies you to be listed as a life-sustaining equipment customer (LSE). For those who rely on electric-powered medical equipment at home (e.g., respirators, dialysis machines, apnea monitors), please register with your utility provider so you can be contacted in the event of an emergency.

Coastal Storms - Frequently Asked Questions

Evacuation

How do I know if I have to leave my home?

  • If your address is in one of the City's hurricane evacuation zones, you may be ordered to evacuate if a coastal storm threatens New York City. Stay informed by registering for Notify NYC, the City's free, official source for information about emergencies at NYC.gov/notifynyc, by calling 311 or following @NotifyNYC on Twitter.

What do I do if there is an evacuation order?

  • Find out whether you live in a zone by using the Hurricane Evacuation Zone Finder at NYC.gov/knowyourzone or calling 311 (212-639-9675 for Video Relay Service, or TTY: 212-504-4115). If you live in a zone that has been ordered to evacuate, you should leave your home. Stay with friends or family outside of the evacuation zone order or report to your nearest evacuation center.

What is an evacuation center?

  • An evacuation center is a safe, City-run facility for evacuees who have no other place to stay in the event of a coastal storm. Once at an evacuation center, evacuees will be transported to an appropriate shelter. If you need an accessible shelter, for example, you will transported to that shelter.

Who should use an evacuation center?

  • In the event of an evacuation order, if you can, stay with friends or family who live outside evacuation zones. For those who have no other shelter, the City will open evacuation centers throughout the five boroughs. To find the location of your nearest evacuation center, use the Hurricane Evacuation Zone Finder by visiting NYC.gov/knowyourzone or call 311 (212-639-9675 for Video Relay Service, or TTY: 212-504-4115).

What if I do not live in a hurricane evacuation zone and/or am not ordered to evacuate?

  • If you do not live in a hurricane evacuation zone or are not ordered to evacuate, make sure you have an emergency supply kit in case you lose power or other basic services. Stay away from windows in case they break or shatter and stay indoors to avoid hurricane hazards. Visit the Ready New York webpage or call 311 to learn more about how to prepare and what you should stock in your emergency supply kit. If you have concerns about how a loss of power and elevator use, basic services and public transportation may affect you, consider evacuating.

Transportation

How will I get to an evacuation center?

  • Evacuees should make arrangements to evacuate safely using their normal means of transportation or with assistance from family and friends. Evacuees should use public transportation if possible, keeping in mind that public transportation, including MTA's Access-A-Ride, may shut down hours before a storm. If an evacuation order is issued, people in an evacuation zone who have no other options to evacuate safely may call 311 to request evacuation assistance to an evacuation center.

What can I do if I need evacuation assistance?

  • If an evacuation order is issued, people in an evacuation zone who need assistance or who have no other options to evacuate safely may call 311 to request evacuation assistance.

Can I request evacuation assistance through 311 if I am homebound or cannot get to the curb on my own?

  • Yes. If an evacuation order is issued, people in an evacuation zone who need assistance or have no other options to evacuate safely may call 311 to request evacuation assistance to an evacuation center.

Do I need to be a U.S. citizen to access evacuation assistance through 311 during a coastal storm?

  • No. You will not be asked your immigration status.

Do I need to be an Access-A-Ride registrant to access evacuation assistance through 311?

  • No. Anyone can call for assistance.

Can I request to go to a personal address if I call 311 for evacuation assistance?

  • No. You cannot request transportation to a specific address. Depending on your need, you will either be taken to an accessible evacuation center in an accessible vehicle or by ambulance to a hospital outside of an evacuation zone.

If I am a current Access-A-Ride registrant, do I need to contact 311 for evacuation assistance or can I call Access-A-Ride directly?

  • Current Access-A-Ride customers can call Access-A-Ride directly and indicate that they would like to request evacuation assistance. Customers can also call 311.

How will I get back home?

  • After an emergency, you can use your usual means of transportation to return home (assuming public transportation is running and roadways are cleared). Some additional resources to consider are taxi voucher programs through Access-A-Ride and the Accessible Dispatch Program. If you need help making arrangements, speak with shelter staff.

Evacuation Centers, Shelters & Special Medical Needs Shelters

What is an evacuation center?

  • An evacuation center is a safe, City-run facility for evacuees who have no other place to stay in the event of a coastal storm. Once at an evacuation center, evacuees will be transported to an appropriate shelter. If you need an accessible shelter, for example, you will transported to that shelter.

What is a special medical needs shelter (SMNS)?

  • A special medical needs shelter is an emergency shelter that offers limited support for people with special medical needs and their adult caregivers. An SMNS is for people with medical conditions that are not severe enough to require hospitalization but do require care not available at general shelters. One family member or adult caregiver should accompany each person who seeks safety in a special medical needs shelter.

When would I go to a special medical needs shelter?

  • If you have special medical needs and are able to live at home with assistance from a family member or adult caregiver, you may seek shelter at a special medical needs shelter. Admission to the shelter will be based on your medical needs and on the shelter's capacity to meet those needs. The special medical needs shelter will also accommodate your family as needed.

What services are available at a special medical needs shelter?

  • Special Medical Needs Shelters feature items that can accommodate special medical needs. Services provided in the SMNS include basic nursing care and health monitoring supported by medical professionals. Special medical needs shelter staff members are trained to help with special medical needs as requested, such as properly assisting with transfer to a cot, for example. The SMNS can also engage Emergency Medical Services (EMS) for serious health emergencies and conditions. Reasonable accommodations, such as special medical need cots or other assistive devices, including mobility aids, oxygen tanks and basic medical supplies may be available by request.

Safety & Security at Shelters & Evacuation Centers

Do I need to be a U.S. citizen to enter a shelter or evacuation center?

  • No. Evacuation centers and emergency shelters are open to anyone, regardless of immigration status. All evacuees will be accepted, and evacuees will not be asked about their immigration status at any New York City evacuation center.

What are the security procedures in place?

  • The New York City Police Department is responsible for maintaining public safety at the evacuation centers and shelters.

Counseling at Shelters & Evacuation Centers

Will there be counselors or a chaplain at the shelter or evacuation center in case I need someone to talk to?

  • Yes. Let the shelter staff know your needs. There will be staff on site to provide crisis counseling, psychological first aid, and referrals if needed.

Access to Information at Shelters & Evacuation Centers

Will we be able to watch the news there to stay updated at the shelter?

  • Possibly. A television is not a required part of any shelter, although many do have them. Consider bringing a battery operated AM/FM radio with you to stay informed.

Sleeping Arrangements at Shelters & Evacuation Centers

Can I stay with my partner? Are sleeping arrangements by gender?

  • Dormitory staff will work with those staying in the shelter to resolve any issues or concerns. At shelters, households with children will be separated from others.

Questions about Shelters & Evacuation Centers Based on Specific Needs

I don't speak English. Will there be interpreters on-site at the shelter?

  • Information at shelters will be available in various languages and formats, and you can request interpretation and/or translation services in those and additional languages at the shelter if needed.

Will I be able to read the signs and directions at the shelter?

  • Information at shelters will be available in various languages and formats. Shelter staff is available to assist, and you can also request interpretation and/or translation services at the shelter.

I have a disability. Will my needs be met at the shelter?

  • Be prepared to speak to shelter staff about your needs. Various hurricane shelters will have a Disability, Access and Functional Needs Coordinator that can work to help accommodate your needs. Please review this shelter video to get a sense of the coordinator's role.

I have a behavioral or emotional disability. How can I prepare for staying at an emergency shelter if needed?

  • Be prepared to speak to shelter staff about your needs. Some shelters may be able to accommodate you in smaller, quiet rooms, away from the larger crowd. If you are sensitive to light or sound, consider packing sunglasses or ear plugs, for example, in addition to any other items specific to your needs in your Go Bag.

I am deaf. How will I be able to communicate with shelter staff?

  • Auxiliary aids and services — including sign language interpreters, sound amplifiers, and documents in alternative formats — will be available at accessible hurricane evacuation centers. (Accessible centers can be found by visiting the NYC Hurricane Evacuation Zone Finder). These facilities may have technology, such as Video Relay Interpretation (VRI) and videos, to facilitate communication. VRI is a video conferencing technology that allows access to an off-site interpreter to provide real-time American Sign Language interpretation to help you communicate with shelter staff. You can also request in-person interpretation and/or translation services at the shelter as needed.

It is difficult for me to hear. How are important announcements made at an emergency shelter?

  • Communications at shelters are made in various forms and shelter staff members are trained to help address varying needs. Shelters may also have technology, such as personal amplifiers, that you can use to facilitate communication at a shelter, depending on specific needs. Auxiliary aids and services will be available at accessible centers, including sign language interpreters, sound amplifiers, and documents in alternative formats. Accessible centers can be found by visiting the NYC Hurricane Evacuation Zone Finder.

I have a mobility disability. Will my shelter be accessible?

  • All accessible evacuation centers are listed on the Hurricane Evacuation Zone Finder at NYC.gov/knowyourzone (or call 311); however, any evacuation center will arrange for transportation to an accessible shelter.

Can anyone help me move throughout the shelter?

  • Yes. Speak to shelter staff about your needs.

Are there higher cots to accommodate my physical needs (e.g., arthritis)?

  • Special medical needs shelters, accessible evacuation centers and shelters have items that can accommodate special medical needs. Reasonable accommodations, such as special medical need cots or other assistive devices, may be available by request.

Will someone help me in and out of bed?

  • Yes. Special medical needs shelter staff are trained to properly assist your transfer to a cot. If you require this kind of assistance, please let staff at the evacuation center know so you can be transported to a special medical needs shelter.

Can anyone help me use the restroom?

  • Yes. Staff at special medical needs shelters are trained to help assist with specific medical needs. If you require this kind of assistance, please let staff at the evacuation center know so you can be transported to a special medical needs shelter.

I have a vision disability. Would someone be able to help me familiarize myself with my surroundings at the shelter?

  • Let shelter staff know your needs. Staff can walk you around the center to help you familiarize yourself with your surroundings if needed.

I have medication that requires refrigeration. Will the shelter be able to refrigerate my medication?

  • Yes. Please speak with shelter staff to request. Medication can be refrigerated upon request or at an accessible evacuation center and shelter and at special medical needs shelters.

Are any medications, like insulin, available, or do I have to bring my own?

  • You should prepare to bring your own medication along with your prescriptions. You should also have written down dosages of medication and how often you take them. However, shelter staff can assist with locating a pharmacy or contacting your doctor. Note: Department of Health & Mental Hygiene nurses may be available to assist. NYC Health + Hospitals physicians are available at Special Medical Needs Shelters. Glucose testing devices are available at all shelters, but you should bring your own device if needed.

Will staff be able to help me take my medication?

  • Yes. At a special medical needs shelter, staff are trained to help assist with specific medical needs. If you require this sort of assistance please let staff know so you can be transported to a Special Medical Needs Shelter.

I have an oxygen tank. What if my oxygen runs out?

  • Staff at special medical needs shelters are trained to help assist with specific medical needs, including those that use medical equipment. If you require this sort of assistance please let staff at the evacuation center know so you can be transported to a special medical needs shelter. Additional oxygen via oxygen tanks will be available at special medical needs shelters.

I have medical equipment that needs to be charged. Will I be able to charge it at the shelter?

  • Individuals using medical equipment or adaptive equipment will be given priority in order to charge their devices and there will be priority power signage at evacuation centers, shelters, and special medical needs shelters.

I use adult diapers. Are there adult diapers available at the shelter?

  • You should come with a supply of your own diapers, but some will be available at the shelter.

Are there shelter staff who can help me change my adult diaper?

  • At a special medical needs shelter, staff are trained to help assist with specific medical needs. If you require this sort of assistance please let staff at the evacuation center know so you can be transported to a Special Medical Needs Shelter.

I have dietary restrictions. Will the shelter be able to accommodate them?

  • Dietary needs may be accommodated at emergency shelters upon request but plan on packing food in your Go Bag bring with you.

Can I bring my service animal?

  • Yes. Service animals are always allowed and will not be separated from their owners.

Can I bring my pet?

  • Yes. Pets are allowed at New York City emergency shelters. They will be kept in a separate designated area at the shelter. Note: Dogs and cats should wear a collar or harness, rabies tag, and identification tag at all times. Identification tags should include your name, address, and phone number, and the phone number of an emergency contact. Dogs should also wear a license. You can get information on dog licensing from the NYC Department of Health & Mental Hygiene.

Is there pet food available?

  • You should include food in your Go Bag to meet your pet's needs, but some pet food will be available.

Extreme Heat - Frequently Asked Questions

Who is at risk during extreme heat?

  • Children, seniors, people with cardiovascular disease, people taking psychotropic and other medications and people who abuse alcohol or drugs are especially at risk for heat related illness, particularly if these individuals do not have access to a cool environment during extreme heat.

What is a cooling center?

  • Cooling centers are air-conditioned facilities — such as libraries, community centers, senior centers and NYCHA facilities — that are free and open to the public during heat emergencies. Individuals who have no access to a cool environment, and particularly those at risk for heat-related illness (children, seniors, people with cardiovascular disease and/or people taking psychotropic and other medications) should use the cooling centers during a heat wave.

Who can access cooling centers?

  • Anyone looking for relief from the heat.

How can I find my nearest cooling center?

  • Call 311 (212-639-9675 for Video Relay Service, or TTY: 212-504-4115) or visit NYC.gov/beattheheat for cooling center locations and hours of operation when centers are activated during a heat event. Before you go, call the cooling center to confirm its hours.

Are cooling centers accessible?

  • Accessible cooling centers are indicated on the Cooling Center Finder, which can be accessed by visiting NYC.gov/beattheheat or by calling 311 (212-639-9675 for Video Relay Service, or TTY: 212-504-4115). Before going to a cooling center, you should call the site directly to find out more details about the center's level(s) of accessibility.

What are spray caps and how can I request one?

  • Spray caps are hydrant caps that control the amount of water that is used by an open hydrant. Spray caps help conserve water during hot weather and allow fire fighters to have enough water pressure to keep New Yorkers safe during hot weather. To request a spray cap, visit your local firehouse. You must be 18 years of age or older to obtain a spray cap.

How can I prevent a power outage during extreme heat?

  • During periods of extreme heat, electricity use rises. It's important to conserve energy as much as possible to power disruptions. Steps you can take to prevent an outage include:
    • Set your air conditioner thermostat no lower than 78 degrees.
    • Use the air conditioner when you are home. If you want to cool your home before you return, set a timer that turns on no earlier than 30 minutes before you arrive.
    • Turn off nonessential appliances.
  • Have emergency supplies on hand in case of an outage. If you lose power, notify your utility provider immediately.


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