Special needs during storms: Prepare and pre-register with B.R.A.C.E.

Special needs during storms: Prepare and pre-register with B.R.A.C.E.

B.R.A.C.E. is an Escambia County-based disaster coalition that was formed from lessons learned after Hurricanes Ivan and Dennis.

One of their many objectives is to get everyone prepared for any kind of natural disaster, especially individuals with special needs.

Some folks think of Ivan as two parts in time - before Ivan and after Ivan.

"First time in a wheelchair, had no idea what we were in for," said Daryl Young.

Young had been wheelchair-bound for three years when Ivan struck. The former deputy contracted a virus that attacked his spinal cord.

"I couldn't get down in the hallway, but my family wouldn't go down there without me," he said.

Young vowed that wouldn't happen again. He began volunteering for B.R.A.C.E.- the "Be Ready Alliance Coordinating for Emergencies."

Mary Lynn Williams also volunteers. Her reason involves a horrific incident that happened to a friend.

Her friend couldn't get help for a woman in a wheelchair during Hurricane Katrina.

"Kept that lady on the phone and she literally drowned while she was on the phone. Every time I think of that story, I think, 'Not on my watch,'" she said.

They want people who have special needs, or can't get out of harm's way to pre-register on the State of Florida Special Needs Registry.

That way shelter space can be prepared, transporation arranged, and emergency workers will know who to check on if registrants shelter in place.

Greg Strader heads up B.R.A.C.E.

Hurricanes Opal, Erin, George, Ivan, Dennis, Katrina, Irma and Matthew are just a few disasters Strader has helped respond to and study. He said B.R.A.C.E. works with 500 agency partners and more than 1,000 volunteers.

"They pull together their teams as far away as Canada," he said.

Williams and Young meet with groups year round and help them register. They give seminars on how to prepare for a disaster.

Young focuses on people who rely on medical equipment to survive.

"We couldn't get that perspective any other way," he said.

Young said when Dennis hit a year after Ivan, he was ready. He's spent the last decade helping others do the same.

"Call people, let people know where you're at. If you're in a chair or special needs, just make sure lots of people know where you're at," he said.

Click here to reach the registry.

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