You are viewing the website for the aac-rerc, which was funded by NIDRR from 2008-2013.
For information on the new RERC on AAC, funded by NIDILRR from 2014-2019, please visit

Emergency Communication

For People Who Have Limited Speech

• Are you prepared for an Emergency?
• Are the people you care about ready?
• Is your "Go Bag" packed?

• Do you always carry a paper communication display with you?

Emergencies and disasters can happen anywhere. Sometimes there is a warning, but not always. Types of disasters include floods, tornados, tsunamis, earthquakes, extreme temperatures, chemical leaks, terrorist attacks on people, contamination of the water supply and so on. In emergency/disaster situations, there are no guarantees.

Be prepared! Read and download a PDF of the CHECKLIST and information on this page

Taking Responsibility for Your Safety: People with Limited Speech and Those Who Care About Them

1. Do you have a support team? Does everyone know what to do? (Action steps)

2. Do you have an evacuation plan in case you need to leave home or work in an emergency situation?  (Action steps)

3. Is your “Go Bag” packed? (Action steps)

4. Do you have paper (laminated) communication display(s) with you at all times?  (Action steps)

5. Do you always carry a copy of your health information and prescriptions  in a water proof bag in case of an emergency?  (Action steps)

6. Are you prepared to remain at home or work during an emergency? (Action steps)

If you think, “Never mind….this won’t ever happen to me?” Think again!. Emergencies can (and do) happen to anyone. Be prepared, not sorry

1. Support Team

EVERYONE needs a support team. Most rescues are done by friends and neighbors. Your chances of getting the help you need may depend on your support team.

  • Train as many people as you can (at least three). Each team member needs to know how to help.

  • Put the plan in writing and practice with your team. Update your plan quarterly.

  • Include information about how you will be evacuated, sheltered and how you will communicate in your plan.

  • Prepare your Go Bags so you will have all necessary items available.

  • Always have a backup plan. Not everyone may be able to get to you.

If you cannot take advantage of TV, radio alerts because of hearing or vision problems, plan how you will be alerted.

Resources: Download   the Emergency Evacuation Preparedness Guide.

Back to Top

2. An Evacuation Plan

You need to make arrangements in advance.

  • Identify your support team (see #1 above). They need to be informed and updated quarterly.

  • Put your plans in writing. Make sure each member of your support team has a copy.

  • Do not assume you will have electric power. Plan accordingly.

  • Practice the plan. Do a trial run of evacuation procedures to work out the quirks. Then practice regularly.

You have the right to bring a service animal, your communication tools and accessories (switches, battery pack, mount) with you. You also have the right to bring someone who understands your communication/basic needs with you if you are evacuated.

Plan for elevators being 'out' if you live/work in a multi story building.

Resources: Download  Emergency Evacuation Preparedness Guide.

Back to Top

3. Your “Go Bag”

You need to have a “Go Bag” packed and located where you can get it quickly in case you need to leave your home/workplace. Note: You may need more than one “Go Bag.”

  • You will NOT have time to “throw things together” or quickly access everything you will need in an emergency. You MUST prepare in advance.

  • Don’t forget to include specific equipment, such as feeding equipment, batteries, switches, chargers, a laminated communication display so you can access pertinent vocabulary.

  • Make sure you label all items because things get lost easily in shelters.

  • Consider making a small manual with photos to provide instructions about how you need to be lifted and seated, how you sleep and eat. Be sure to include information about how you communicate, how to maintain your equipment, etc.

Resources: Search Google for "Go Bags" (example here)

 Go Bag

4. Your Communication Equipment

Communication is an important key to survival, safety and well-being during any emergency. Do not take chances.

  • Always have a laminated paper communication display with you. Include key vocabulary items (e.g., ways to ask questions, express basic needs, pain, medication, emotions, etc.
  • If possible, make sure someone who understands how you communicate stays with you.

  • If you use an electronic speech generating device, take it with you if possible. However, be aware that shelters may or may not have electricity.

  • Don’t forget to take other accessories with you (e.g., batteries, charger, switches, mounts, software, etc.).

Bilingual Board

Resources: See examples in Appendix A,  [Please consider sharing your personal displays with us)

5. Your Medical Information

In a waterproof bag/container, you need copies of your important medical information, insurance cards, accommodation requirements, emergency contacts, doctors, instructions for activities of daily living, allergies, inhalers and medications

  • Make multiple copies of your emergency health information to keep at work, in your wallet, wheelchair pack, or purse with your primary identification card.

  • Put a copy in your Go-Bags.

  • Review and update this information whenever your medications or other information changes, but no less than twice a year.

Resources: Go to Emergency Health Information: Savvy Health Care Consumer Series. Click here to access Emergency Health Information Form. You can download a PDF version, fill it out and keep with you.

Back to Top

6. Shelter in Place

If you plan to stay at home/work, plan for the likelihood that telephones, power and transportation services may not function. Make sure you have enough food and water for at least seven days and that someone will periodically check on you.

Back to Top


• Download a  PDF of CHECKLIST with symbols and the 'Go Bag' graphic
• Read aloud Billy Builds a Kit, a story by Pam Kennedy and the 'Go Bag' graphic from News-2-You website
• Download free communication aids from The Institute on Disabilities at Temple University


Additional Resources about Emergency Communication

Return to Emergency Communication Home Page