By Sara Bell

From 1994 to 2013, natural disasters killed 1.35 million people. While not all natural disasters can be predicted, the best way to protect yourself and your family is to prepare for the worst ahead of time. For parents of children with special needs, this is especially true. Knowing how to take swift action is the best way to ensure their safety in any natural disaster.

Here are a few ways parents of children with special needs can prepare.

Prepare an emergency kit. Pack an emergency kit, which includes clothes, bottled water, etc., for each member of the family. As Disabled-World.com notes for a child with special needs, you’ll want to be sure to pack medicines and other needed medical supplies, wheelchair batteries, food for service animals, and any other regularly used items that won’t be readily available in the aftermath of the disaster.

Practice your getaway plan. Some natural disasters may require that you and your family leave your home and take shelter elsewhere. As this guide on wildfire safety notes, it’s best that people with disabilities practice their evacuation plans ahead of time to ensure they can get to safety as quickly as possible. If your child has mobility issues, you may even want to designate an alternate route for getting out of the home, in case your planned path is blocked.

Pinpoint the safest areas of your home. Depending on the natural disaster, different areas of your home will be the best places for you and your family to ride out the event. Make sure you find places in your home that can accommodate your child with special needs. In its guide on disaster preparedness, the Red Cross offers advice on what people with disabilities can do to protect themselves in different kinds of natural disasters. For example, in an earthquake, you’ll want to be sure your child can get under a sturdy piece of furniture. If that isn’t possible and your child is in a wheelchair, lock their wheels and cover their head with a hard object. In a tornado, the Red Cross recommends getting yourself and your child to the “lowest floor or below-ground area of your home.”

Fill out an emergency form. Of course, some natural disasters strike with little warning. It’s possible that when trouble arrives your child will be at school or you’ll be at work and someone else will be in charge of getting your child to safety. These tips on preparing for an emergency recommend filling out an emergency information form on your child. Keep this form with your child’s belongings at all times so that their caregivers or emergency responders will know what medications they need, who their doctors are, and how to reach you as quickly as possible.

Natural disasters are scary for everyone who experiences them. But when you’re a prepared parent, you can help ensure your family is safe from harm.

Sara Bell grew up in a family of teachers—her dad has taught high school for 30 years and her mom is a university professor. At EducatorLabs, she puts the lessons they instilled in her about the importance of curiosity and learning to great use. When she isn’t working, she enjoys reading, writing, and knitting.