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Office of Emergency Management

For Our AFN Community

Disasters create new physical barriers and eliminate and/or lessen services available to everyone. 

For people with access and functional needs, this may take away their ability to perform certain functions that were previously possible, and/or their capacity to live independently, and/or navigate the available response and recovery systems effectively. 

Access and Functional Needs


Populations whose members may have additional needs before, during, and after an incident in functional areas including but not limited to: maintaining independence, communication, transportation, supervision, and medical care.

Individuals in need of additional response assistance may include those who have disabilities; who live in institutionalized settings; who are elderly; who are children; who are from diverse cultures; who have limited English proficiency or are non-English speaking; or who are transportation disadvantaged.  This is consistent with the definition that FEMA uses in the National Response Framework to define the term “special needs.”  

The City of Santa Monica has decided to use “access and functional needs” in place of “special needs” as this terminology is consistent with current trends in California and nationally.  Thus, be aware that these interchangeable terms mean the same thing.

For the millions of Americans who have physical, medical, sensory or cognitive disabilities, emergencies such as fires, floods and acts of terrorism present a real challenge.  Protecting yourself and your family when disaster strikes, requires planning ahead.  

Follow OEM's simple theme of Get a Kit, Have Plan and Stay Informed when putting together your disaster plan.  Decide what you will be able to do for yourself and what assistance you may need before, during and after a disaster.

Before An Emergency-Get a Kit and Have a Plan



Take into consideration what you do independently and where you may need assistance in your daily life.  Keep in mind your regular sources of assistance may not be available after a disaster.  You are in the best position to plan for your own safety as you are best able to know your functional abilities and possible needs during and after an emergency or disaster situation.

  •  Develop a personal support network (sometimes called a self-help team) that can help you prepare for a disaster.  Members of your network should be people you trust and who can check to see if you need assistance.  They should know your capabilities and needs, and be able to provide help within minutes.  Do not depend on only one person.  Include a minimum of three people in your network for each location where you regularly spend a lot of time since people work different shifts, take vacations and are not always available.
  • Create an emergency kit specific to your needs and think about things you may want or need to include.  Teach those who may need to assist you in an emergency how to operate necessary equipment. Also, label equipment and attach laminated instructions for equipment use.
  • Learn what to do in case of power outages and personal injuries.  Know how to connect and start a back-up power supply for essential medical equipment.  If you use an electric wheelchair or scooter, have a manual wheelchair for backup. Store back-up equipment (mobility, medical, etc.) at your neighbor’s home, school, or your workplace.
  • Gather information about the specific hazards that threaten your community and about your risk from those hazards.  Learn about community response plans, evacuation plans and designated emergency shelters.  Find out how local authorities will warn you of a pending disaster and how they will provide information to you during and after a disaster.  Learn about NOAA Weather Radio and its alerting capabilities (  Sign up for SM Alerts, the City of Santa Monica's Alert Notification System.  Have more than one method to receive warnings and evacuation information.
  • Develop an action plan and practice by conducting regular drills.  In a fire or other emergency, you may need to evacuate on a moment’s notice.  Be ready to get out fast.  If you or someone in your household uses a wheelchair, make exits from your home wheelchair accessible.  In an earthquake, do not try to get out of the building, most injuries occur when people try to exit during the shaking and are injured by other people or falling debris.  Create safe places, where heavy or falling objects and breaking glass won't injure you, such as under tables or along walls.


Kit Family Planning for a Disaster



During An Emergency-Protect Yourself




  • In an event, protect yourself in the safest place possible without having to move far.  The more limitations you have the more important it is to create safe spaces for yourself.
  • If you are unable to get out of a building, you can let someone know where you are and guide them to you.  Be prepared to provide clear, specific and concise instructions to rescue personnel.
  • Take your pets with you if you evacuate.  However, be aware that pets (other than service animals) usually are not permitted in emergency public shelters for health reasons.



Tsunami Signage  Drop Cover and Hold On


After The Emergency-Stay Informed



  • After an event, decide whether or not you need to move or evacuate for safety.  Evacuate only if necessary, otherwise stay where you are and shelter in place.
  • If authorities contact you or otherwise advise an evacuation for people in your area, follow their directions immediately.  Do not expect that they will be able to come back for your once they have notified the people in your area.
  • If you evacuate to a shelter, let shelter staff know your needs and any medications you require.


SM Alerts Bug  Weather Radio



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1685 Main St., Santa Monica, CA 90401 · (310) 458-8411 · TTY (310) 917-6626