September 21, 2005


Unlocking Autism has been dealing with families displaced by Katrina and has advice to offer those in the path of Rita:

We have all learned lessons from Hurricane Katrina. As Hurricane Rita, which is has grown into a strong Category 4 storm, begins to approach the Gulf Coast, we are working hard to use what we learned from Katrina to prepare for Rita, only three weeks later.


If you will potentially be impacted by Hurricane Rita (along the coast of Texas and Southwest Louisiana), you are invited to register your family or families you know about who have children with autism? at the AutismCares website, free of charge. You can put in emergency contact information so that our coordinators can call to check on you after the storm hits. A checklist to help you and your family prepare for the storm is listed below. Should your family need anything after the storm, we will do our best to assist you in coordinating those needs.

Registering prior to the storm will help us be more effective

in our efforts once it passes.

To register, please fill out the form at before landfall on Friday/Saturday.

We are still working hard to assist families we have located in the aftermath of Katrina. If you know of a family in need of assistance, please contact us at 1-800-960-1844 or email us at .


For our friends preparing for Hurricane Rita, please find a list of hurricane preparations below:

Discuss the type of hazards that could affect your family. Know your home's vulnerability to storm surge, flooding and wind. Prepare your house and your yard for the approaching storm. Remove things in the yard that could become projectiles in heavy winds and secure windows as needed.

Locate a safe room or the safest areas in your home for each hurricane hazard. In certain circumstances the safest areas may not be your home but within your community at a shelter. Is the room you select as your safest spot high enough to evade flood waters? Is there glass in the room that can break with winds? If your area is prone to high flood waters, put an ax in the attic so that you can break out if needed. If your home is not safe, evacuate to a shelter.

When selecting your safe room, consider your child's special needs. Will winds be too loud? Bring a battery operated headset with soft music to keep your child distracted or a portable DVD player, games or drawing materials, if possible. Be sure to bring food and beverages with you to the room so that you don't have to leave it during the height of the storm.

If you have to evacuate in separate modes of transportation, determine escape routes from your home and places to meet. These should be measured in tens of miles rather than hundreds of miles. Have directions with alternate routes available in the event that you are diverted to a different course than what you originally planned by officials. Have a map in the car.

Have an out-of-state friend as a family contact, so all your family members have a single point of contact. Register at AutismCares when you evacuate so that we will be able to assist you more quickly and bring the toll free number with you in your important papers. Remember that phone lines are often damaged for weeks after the storm so having a contact that is several hundred miles from your own area code is a good idea. Make sure that your cell phone is fully charged and that you have important phone numbers either programmed into it or a list of those numbers with you.

Refill any necessary prescriptions for all members of your family. Have medication and supplements that your child might take on hand with enough for a two week supply, minimum. Bring a copy of your child's doctors names and phone numbers.

If you do evacuate to a shelter, put a label on the back of your child's shirt with their name, your name, your emergency contact information and their diagnosis in case you are separated during the evacuation.

Bring any important documents with you including a copy of your child's IEP, insurance papers, medical records, school records, evaluations, etc. Take pictures of your house in each room if you can and bring the film with you. Be sure to have pictures of all family members with you in the event that any of you are separated so that you can notify people more quickly.

Contact the local Red Cross, or local emergency officials, in your area to determine if Special Needs Shelters have been set up prior to the storm's arrival in case you need to evacuate to one. A Special Needs Shelter is more prepared to handle your child's needs.

Make a plan now for what to do with your pets if you need to evacuate.

Post emergency telephone numbers by your phones and make sure your children know how and when to call 911.

Check your insurance coverage - flood damage is not usually covered by homeowners insurance.

Stock non-perishable emergency supplies and a Disaster Supply Kit. You will need candles, flashlights, batteries, enough bottled water for your whole family for five days, charcoal, lighter fluid and matches for cooking, mosquito repellent, ice , toilet paper, body wipes, diaper wipes, plastic bags, diapers (as needed). We also recommend keeping hand cleansers like Purell handy. You might want to make sure that you have Bleach in the event that you need to use it to sterilize water or surfaces contaminated by sewer backups or flood waters.

In the most affected areas, fill your bathtubs and any other containers with water after the storm passes in the event that water pumps fail. This will allow you to still be able to flush your toilet by boiling the water from the tub to the toilet. Be sure to keep small children out of the bathroom to avoid them stumbling into a full tub.

Use a NOAA weather radio or other battery operated transistor radio. Remember to replace its battery every 6 months, as you do with your smoke detectors.

The majority of deaths associated with Hurricanes result in the post storm flooding. Do not venture out after the Hurricane has past if at all possible until officials indicate that it is safe to do so.

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