top of page

Emergency Evacuation Plan for Individuals with Disabilities

On Tuesday, I ventured down to the 400 Block to attend the Wausau Police Department Community Thank -you event.  The event had a huge turnout!  It was so exciting to see the mutual support.

While at the event, my mom and I were talking about Hurricane Harvey.  I had concern for all of those affected, but most of all individuals with disabilities.  For the first time in my life, I began thinking about an emergency evacuation plan.

Hunter Kelch posing in front of Police Vehicle

Attending the Wausau Police Dept Thank you Event

Questions entered my mind.  What would happen to me in the event of such a disaster. How would I be able to get to safety?  We visited the Emergency Police Unit booth.  I asked them if there was an emergency evacuation plan for individuals with special needs. An officer suggested we contact the Red Cross.  We did attempt to call the local Red Cross office.  Understandably, we had difficulty getting through.

I hit the internet to see what I could find.  Texas has an emergency evacuation registry for special needs residents.  This registry does not apply to those in facilities like hospitals or nursing homes.  Such facilities are required to have their own emergency evacuation plan.  The registry is for individuals like myself who live independently in the community.

What is the purpose of an emergency evacuation registry?  This registry identifies and locates residents who are unable to evacuate on their own due to special needs.  In the event of a sudden natural disaster, this registry identifies and locates residents who may require extra assistance.

I discovered that Wisconsin does not have an emergency evacuation registry. However, I did find that Dane County does!  I had my mom make a few phone calls to find out what my own county offers.

Now I don’t want to give that impression that I have a personal secretary, although it would be nice.  I am not quite that important just yet!  Due to my CP, I am difficult to understand on the phone.  My stutter can make a quick phone call turn into a two-hour ordeal!  To make things easier, my mom calls with my questions.

My mom initially spoke with Phil Rentmeester, the Director of Emergency Management for Marathon County.  Marathon County Emergency Management develops and directs a plan for the county during a state of emergency.  Mr. Rentmeester stated that there is not registry for the state of Wisconsin or Marathon County.  He referred us to Scott Habeck to further discuss what is available for special needs families in the Wausau area.  However, he did let my mom know he would further into what Dane County offers and see if such a registry would be possible for Marathon County.

Scott Habeck is the EMS District Chief at the Wausau Fire Department.  He also referred back to an informal registry that used to exist locally.  However, it became outdated and is no longer in use. Scott Habeck suggested that special needs residents have their information entered into the CAD system.

CAD stands for computer aided dispatch and special needs residents can be flagged within that system.  When a call comes into 911, the dispatcher is made aware of the special needs of the resident.  This information is then relayed to EMS.

For example, a family with a child who has autism can have vital information entered into the system.  Such as, the child will hide when scared.  In the event of a fire or other emergency, EMS will know to look in hiding places for the child.  EMS workers will know how to approach him/her.  This is lifesaving information.

In my case, EMS now knows that I am immobile and that I use a wheelchair. They also know that I have cerebral palsy and am alone overnight. Additionally, they have my mom’s phone number to contact her in case of emergency.

Scott Habeck is excited about the upcoming improvements to the current CAD system in Marathon County.  These improvements will be in place in 2018. Additionally, Wausau Fire Chief, Tracey Kujawa, recently wrote a grant for mobile data units.  If approved, these units will make the dispatch of information much more efficient.

Does Wisconsin need an emergency evacuation registry like Texas?  Scott Habeck does not think so.  However, he stated that a county registry, with financial backing from the state would be ideal.  In the event of a mass evacuation, the counties could coordinate the registries.

I agree.  County based emergency evacuation registries would work best in Wisconsin. However, I think the current system of flagging special needs residents in the CAD system needs to continue.  Unlike Texas, Wisconsin is not prone to mass disasters. Tornadoes and flooding tend to be localized.

In the meantime, what can individuals with special needs do?

Here are a few suggestions:

Call your local Sherriff’s Department or EMS service.  Ask to be flagged as someone with special needs within the CAD system.  

Give them all your vital information in regards to your special needs.  Include the contact information of a close friend or relative.

Have an emergency plan written down.   Have contact information of friends and relatives readily available. It is difficult to remember this information when scared and stressed.

Have an emergency kit always prepared in your home and make sure it is as accessible as possible.  Click Here to check out my blog on emergency kits.

Emergency kit supplies

For my Wausau readers, Scott Habeck encourages special needs residents to call him with your information at 715-261-7900.  You can also be send the informationto the Wausau Fire Department

Wausau Fire Department

ATTN: Scott Habeck

606 E Thomas St. Wausau, WI 54403.

Include the following when calling or writing:

Physical/Emotional/Mental/Intellectual Disabilities

medical conditions

mobility needs

contact information (family contact information also)

any other important information needed for emergencies.

For my Marathon County readers, contact the Marathon County Sherriff’s Department non-emergency number (715) 261-1200.  A request can be made to be “flagged” in the CAD system.  Additionally, reach out to your local EMS service with the same information.

My fellow rollers, we need to have a motto like the Boy Scouts!  BE PREPARED!!  Most importantly, BE PROACTIVE!!  Call your local EMS and sheriffs department.  Ask what system is in place for an emergency evacuation for special needs residents.  If there is no plan in place, work with them to start one!

I would like to thank Phil Rentmeester and Scott Habeck for taking the time share this valuable information.  I appreciate not only your time, but also your service to our community.

Until next time, Keep Rollin’ and Keep Smilin’


bottom of page