There are specific steps that everyone should take, including those who are blind, in preparation for natural disasters and emergencies.

Tracey Hawkins, AWB Public Relations Chairperson, and safety expert, will be speaking about safety for the visually challenged during the national convention for the American Council of the Blind, in Reno, Nevada this July.

Hawkins states, "First and foremost, have a Safety Plan. It is impossible to think clearly when you are in the midst of a disaster. You need to know in advance what you will do in any dangerous situation."

The plan should include:

1. Letting the fire and police department know in advance, that a person who is disabled is living in a house or apartment. This allows them to take extra precautions and ensures that they know who they are looking for once they respond to a call. Be advised that window stickers to alert that there is a handicapped person in residence can be a security concern; they may make you more vulnerable to criminals. If you live in a secure community and feel comfortable using the stickers, do so carefully.

2. Be alert and aware of any upcoming weather related events. Do so by having a NOAA weather radio with an emergency alert system that turns on automatically when there is an emergency. Pay attention to the news and weather forecasts, especially during hazardous weather seasons.

3. Have your weather radio where you can hear it and a spare one in your safety area, the place that you will take shelter, more than likely the basement. Make sure the radio is a wind-up one that doesn't require batteries, just in case you don't have them and there is no electricity. Make sure it has local radio stations so that you can stay up-to-date on what is going on in your town. Beware of using headphones, as it will stop you from hearing what is going on around you and in your area.

4. Have a contact plan with your neighbors. Promise to check-in with each other when bad weather is coming, regardless of whether you are home or not. They need to know so that time is not spent looking for you if you are not there. This allows you to make sure they are aware of approaching bad weather, and that you get a phone call, as well.

5. Make sure you have a group of key contacts, family members or friends, that you can call and let know when and where you are taking shelter. They are to be the contacts to update everyone else about your status. If necessary, they can contact emergency officials on your behalf. They should know the location of where in your house you will take shelter. Check-in with each other periodically.

6. Utilize social media to state your whereabouts and condition. Keep people posted so no one worries about you. If you know of other's situations in your community, share that information with everyone.

7. Keep cell phones close by, near the bedside, on the table or in your pocket. Keep a spare charger in the shelter area. In case cell phone service is not available, have a basic landline in your home for communication. Do not use a wireless phone, (in case there is no electricity), have a corded phone for this purpose. Make sure it is located in your shelter area. If you have cable phone service, keep in mind that a power outage means no phone service.

8. Make sure you have up-to-date emergency food rations and water in your shelter area, not in the kitchen.

9. Practice emergency escape drills with your family, in advance. Know where you are to meet in times of emergency, select an inside and outside location. Let one person be in charge of rounding up the pets. Make it clear that no one re-enters the house for a pet. Guide/service dogs will hopefully be kenneled or sleep close by. Keep this in mind when choosing a location for them to sleep.

10. Keep a flashlight handy, wind-up is preferred, no batteries required. This can help in rescue efforts.

11. Keep battery-operated personal alarms accessible for all members of the family. Bedside is ideal for nighttime evacuation. This will aid in location and rescue efforts. It will allow members of your family to make their whereabouts known as you evacuate or seek shelter. If you have a home security system, get a key fob with a panic button. Keep it accessible.

12. Keep an extra cane in your shelter location and/or bedside. Although you know your way around your home and don't typically use it at home, if you need to evacuate, you need to be sure to have your cane with you.

13. Keep your purse, wallet and medications close-by, so that you can take them with you when you seek shelter. Or, take them down as soon as news of dangerous weather is announced.

14. If you work in your own office, make sure others in your office building know when you are there in case you are not aware of evacuation orders. Keep a radio or television on during dangerous weather season.

Hawkins states that since the media is not accessible to all; the blind are unable to read the emergency crawls on the TV screen, the deaf are not able to hear sirens. Communication and close family and neighbor contacts are imperative to help all stay informed.