Thursday, September 11, 2008

9/11 A DAY TO REMEMBER THE PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES/WHEELCHAIRS THAT COULD NOT MAKE IT OUT AND SOME IDEAS HOW YOU CAN BE PREPARED FOR EMERGENCIES

Well today we are reminded of a horrible tragedy that happened 7 years ago! I can remember hearing the phone ring early in the morning and I thought after the 7th or 8th time of someone constantly calling it had to be an emergency. My mom was calling from the east coast when it happened so by the time she finally got me out of bed about noontime (I still can’t remember why I slept in so late) - she had been calling to tell me not to go to my job which was in downtown Seattle because no one knew if there was going to be any more attacks on different cities. I stayed home that day and watched the same footage over and over again in disbelief that it had happened.

My roommate at the time had gotten a phone call because his cousin worked in the World Trade Center in one of the towers and his parents called to say his cousin was okay. Since his cousin woke up late that day he was on the train going into work when the towers had been hit. As I sit here writing this I think of all the people that lost their lives, but I also am thinking about all the people with disabilities and wheelchair users that never even got a chance to get out of the buildings. I heard all kinds of stories about people being carried down flights and flights of stairs because like me they cannot walk. I have also heard of those that never even got a chance to get out and just sat in their wheelchairs, then the building collapsed. It is actually hard to even finish writing this because it is so emotional to think about. So, on this day I am remembering everyone who lost their lives, but I am also truly thinking about the ones who never even had the chance to get out!

If you are someone who lives or works in a large building and you have a disability there are many resources that can assist you with ideas for emergency preparedness. I know that when my bedroom was on the second floor (I had a stair lift with another wheelchair at the top of the stairs) and if I was ever home alone I would sleep on the couch down stairs because I had an extreme fear of fire, and still do. I contacted my local fire department to let them know my situation and they were great each year about calling my house to see if I still lived there. I guess they had a list or something of people with disabilities for emergencies. I lived in a small town at the time and thought that it was amazing that they would check each year to see if I still lived there. I knew that if there was ever a fire they would come to my rescue.
The other day when I was at the grocery store I ran into some local fire fighters here in Seattle and I asked them if they had some kind of system to keep track of people with disabilities. I was shocked when they said no. I couldn’t believe that with all the technology we have today that they don't keep track of people with disabilities in their community. If there was ever a fire at my apartment complex nothing would notify the fire department that a disabled person lives there. That doesn’t make me feel very safe, so for my own peace of mind I now have many fire extinguishers that are around my apartment and I have created my own fire safety evacuation route.

In case you worry about your safety here are some resources that I found very helpful

http://www.unitedspinal.org/pdf/WheelchairFireSafety.pdf


Tammy Wilber
VARILITE® Marketing Representative and Wheelchair User Since 1993

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