OHSU UCEDD: A personal and professional experience

November 15, 2023

In the summer of 2020, Jan Staehely, communication consultant and staff member at the OHSU Institute on Development and Disability UCEDD, and an individual with Cerebral Palsy who uses an assistive communication device, had a frightening experience. Wildfires were approaching the south-eastern towns near Portland, Oregon and her neighborhood was placed in an evacuation zone. This is part of her story:

“The sky was tinted ominously orange for days! It felt like I was on a different planet. It was so smoky that I couldn’t go outside for, well it felt like forever. We didn’t have a vehicle at that time, so we had to borrow a van from another group home that wasn’t in danger of being evacuated. We had no idea how all three of our power chairs would fit in that van. I think it was quite possible that one of us would have had to leave their power chair behind. When we were raised to level two, be prepared to leave status, I thought why don't we just leave right now! The real question hanging in the air was if we were evacuated and had to spend multiple nights somewhere, where would we sleep?” 

To read more about Jan’s story, visit her blog: https://jstaehely.wordpress.com/2023/10/03/emergency-preparedness-for-red-sky-or-lack-of/

Fortunately, Jan and her housemates did not need to be evacuated and remained safe. Her experience, however, highlights the necessity for more comprehensive emergency planning and resources. 

After her scary experience, Jan was excited to join a workgroup this year with her colleagues and people with disabilities and family members from all over Oregon to create the Emergency Preparedness Resource Hub website for people with disabilities. The online hub is a one-stop shop to find accessible and relevant resources to help prepare for disasters and emergencies. Beyond videos, flyers, and important links, it also includes an updated version of the Ready Now! Emergency Preparedness Tool Kit. The tool kit was created in 2014 by the Oregon Office on Disability and Health (OODH) and updated in 2023 by the OHSU UCEDD. It is now available on the website for viewing and printing in English and Spanish. To find all of these resources, visit: https://www.ohsu.edu/university-center-excellence-development-disability/emergency-preparedness-people-disabilities