Friday, April 12, 2024

Are you using oxygen or other equipment to live? Register for this before an emergency

The intersection of Water and Market Streets flooded as rain from Hurricane Matthew caused the Cape Fear River to overflow. (Port City Daily file photo/HANNA LEYVA)

WILMINGTON — Emergency situations can be stressful for even the most well-prepared people – for those with special needs, emergency situations can present challenges most people do not have to think about. The New Hanover County Special Needs Registry works with residents with special needs to ensure their safety during times of emergency in the county.

The registry is completely voluntary and it offers emergency responders additional information about the resident that could be pertinent in a rescue situation, such as life-support systems that are dependent on electricity.

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The program is a collaboration between New Hanover’s Senior Resource Center and the county’s Emergency Management Department. The registry started in 2003 after the Senior Resource Center received a federal grant that provided the funding for the program, Senior Resource Center Director Amber Smith said.

Any resident of New Hanover County with special requirements, regardless of age, can be placed on the registry, Smith said.

“Typically, on the registry we do see individuals who are older adults, but we do see some children on the registry,” she said.

The point of the registry is to identify people who might need special assistance during an emergency situation like a hurricane, ice storm or other disaster.

Once on the registry, volunteers and staff members will call registrants twice per year to keep contact information up to date, and to review and prepare emergency preparedness plans.

“We want individuals to take ownership of their own disaster preparedness rather than thinking, ‘Oh someone else is going to take care of me,'” Smith said.

While the registry has been in place for several years, participation in the program is relatively low.

“Right now, we have 370 people on the list … but we know there are a lot more individuals that probably need to be on the registry,” she said.

For residents who choose to participate in the program, volunteers will call each person on the list and let them know the county is opening shelters, and ask if they need any special assistance, hopefully before the emergency situation occurs.

The county also has a Special Needs Taskforce that meets every six weeks. It consists of government employees, as well as groups such as the Red Cross, Emergency Management Specialist Kristen Skinner said.

Residents who want to be placed on the special needs registry can find the registration form online.

_____________________________________________________________________Michael Praats can be contacted via email at or on Twitter @michael_praats


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