Document Type

Master's Culminating Experience

Publication Date



Children with special health care needs are one of the most vulnerable groups in the event of an emergency. Natural and manmade disasters or emergency events occur on a daily basis. Government agencies, schools and day care centers have begun developing emergency disaster plans; fewer plans have been developed for children with special needs. One explanation for the lack of specific planning for children is that agencies may believe that plans for adults are not different from plans for children. There may be many reasons why parents who have children with special needs may not have an emergency plan in place. Parents are overwhelmed with the care of their child with special needs and they may have few specific resources to guide them in developing a plan. To identify relevant information on emergency preparedness for parents who have a child with special needs, this researcher conducted a MEDLINE search via PUBMED. The search included the years 1995 to 2008 using the key words children with special needs, disaster planning for children with disabilities, disaster planning, emergency preparedness and parent’s preparation for disasters. Sixty articles and studies were reviewed. Seventeen met the criteria of providing information regarding parent’s preparations and agency’s plans. The results of the research indicate agencies are beginning to develop plans, however, they are lacking for children with special needs. This researcher developed specific guidelines to complement the agency’s plans and to assist parents in creating emergency plans to ensure an improved outcome for their child with special needs. Parents planning through compilation of information, construction of an emergency kit and purchase of a medical alert identification will empower them with the feeling of being prepared for events that may occur and help to reduce the potential catastrophic consequences of an emergency for their child with special health care needs.