How to help yourself or others with vision impairment during a disaster

It is possible that during a disaster or crisis, something could happen that would affect our ability to see clearly. All of the info that follows is worth reviewing and learning. Vision impairment could happen during a disaster to ourselves or family member. 

One of the main things we can do is keep our hands scrupulously clean when putting our hands near our eyes for any reason. This will help prevent infection.

Never break a sty. It will spread infection rapidly. It is okay per my physician to use a warm tea bag and apply it as a poultice to the eye. Let it sit and it will draw the sty out and reduce it naturally.

If you stock emergency eye ointment or drops or use any kind of eye medication, never use them past it’s best by date. This is from my pharmacist who stressed eye medications are “different” and that we must never go beyond the date indicated on the tube or container. He said that there are no exceptions to this rule. If we do this, we could create a much worse situation.

Prevent blindness has a nice two page sheets on eye safety during disaster.


We might sustain an eye injury to one or both eyes. Subsequently, we may have changed vision or very low to no vision. Safety goggles in our EDC and BOB can help protect our eyes from unexpected hazards.

The first thing I considered is how to prepare for that possibility or scenario.

There is a place for everything and everything in its place mentality in my home. This way the mental visual map that we have is intact in case of an emergency. Nothing is left out as a trip hazard and this also helps prevent falls.

I familiarized myself with the interior of my home so that I could move in the dark and with eyes closed for additional realism. 

I wanted to ensure that in case of a security breach that I could move with stealth in total darkness without stubbing my toe or banging into something and giving away my position or losing the element of surprise with an assailant(s).

There was a need to teach this to my husband who has two types of glaucoma. In the early days the prognosis for his vision was poor. It was then I began to think of ways we could adapt his orientation in the house while he still had vision. He also trained and learned to move in the dark.

He is now off the medication that impacted his vision and triggered the glaucoma, and after two surgeries his vision is stable. He won’t regain the peripheral and horizon vision he lost, but his condition is now stable.

His skill is there if his vision declines and in a security situation he can now move with the same stealth in the dark. He rarely turns a light on at night now.

It may not be a break in that triggers the need to move in the dark. Nothing is infallible. If my smoke detector fails, I could wake up to thick, acrid smoke burning my eyes and become vision impaired while there is an urgent need to escape a fire.

That actually happened to a person I know. She barely escaped with her cat by crawling on her knees. She was unable to see because the smoke caused her eyes to burn and tear very badly. She related to me how terrified she was and that she could hardly breathe. But, she stayed calm and focussed on remembering the mental map from her bedroom to the entrance door and she was able to escape.

Our glasses, including the spare pair in our home or BOB, may become damaged or lost. How do we cope then?

Here is a trailing technique from visionaware.org. They also have other very good suggestions and tips for persons living with vision impairment.


The blind guide also offers excellent disaster safety tips for blindness or visual impairment:

Disaster Safety for People with Disabilities: What to Do When Emergency Weather Strikes

If our vision is impaired by something, we can use a very rudimentary tool made by our hand. Remember when as kids you would curl your hand like a telescope or pirate spyglass? Well, there is a technique like that which can help for loss of vision or visual aids like glasses. I have used this many times when I went to a store and forgot my glasses. It really does work (and you get to look like a cool pirate while you’re doing it).

In an emergency, this is a good method to know.

Here’s a link showing how it’s done:

From Discovery Science – How to improve your vision using just your hands

I prefer to have multiple pairs of extra reading glasses spanning 2.0 through to 2.75. I use two different strengths and the extras are to offer to someone in need.

Rather than keep one extra pair, I keep 2 extra sets of the different strengths of glasses.

I also include several pairs of back up sunglasses, including yellow lenses for fog driving, in my prepping.

I also have several types of magnifying glasses and magnifying sheets to use for reading instructions or other important info in a crisis.

This is a type of magnifying eye wear that I plan to add to my preps that would allow for use for other crisis related tasks such as a cleaning wound properly:

I found an eye glass repair kit at a local hardware store. It is worth keeping several of these per eyeglass wearing person in your household.

This is similar to the small kit I found locally. There are larger kits available on Amazon.

Also how to repair glasses from 


We might also encounter someone who is vision impaired, with or without a guide dog. How can we best offer assistance to that person and, if accompanied by one, their service dog?

Here is some information on that subject from the fighting blindness website that teaches how to interact with someone who is vision impaired and offer assistance in the correct way:

Vision impairment can also affect hand/eye coordination skills. The following two websites offer drills and games to improve that function:

4 Easy Drills to Improve Hand-Eye Coordination

and also from this site:


If anyone can think of other ideas to help protect our eyes during a disaster or tools to help protect our vision and repair glasses, please fee free to add to the list.


  • Comments (26)

    • 5

      We keep  Goggles, Shatterproof shades, Eye drops, and eye glasses repair kits etc. And in our preps but the best treatment we have found for eye infections IE Blepharitis, styies, inflamation etc is honey which has amazing healing properties.   My wife suffered from Blepharitis ( inflamed and infected eyelids) for years,  she was permenently using a medical treatment from the doctor, But in the end she was persuaded to apply fresh honey to her eyelids just as she went to sleep.  Three nights of treatment and the infection was gone and never came back.

      We also use cucumber slices to help treat tired eyes, some people use Tea bags as well.

      • 4


        Good point re shatterproof shades.

        I remember you mentioned your wife was using manuka honey for her eye condition and glad to hear that her infection is cleared up. Eye infections are a miserable thing to have to contend with.

        We keep raw honey on hand also.

        Cucumber slices are a good suggestion also for tired eyes. 

        It is good to know about alternate ways of relieving eye problems, especially during a crisis when a trip to the local pharmacy may not be possible or safe.

        Thank you for suggesting these ideas, Bill.

    • 6

      FYI I believe one of the American dot com billionaires  turned prepper had either himself or his family treated with laser eye surgery to be able to do away with his corrective eye glasses

      • 6


        I have wanted to get lasik since I began wearing glasses. It bothers me that I now have to rely on them, so I can understand why the fellow you mentioned got the surgery done for himself and family.

        I checked into lasik surgery last fall at a much overdue eye exam.

        An aside for everyone – don’t do as I do – Get regular eye exams as part of your medical preparedness.

        I am not prescribed glasses for driving, however, I wear drugstore readers of one strength for computer/reading/tasks and another lesser strength for watching tv. I have neck problems so bifocals of any kind are out of the question.

        My approach to wearing glasses is terrible. I loathe wearing them. I wear sunglasses all the time outdoors or safety glasses while working with power tools, but reading glasses drive me up a wall. I have developed a full range of oathes and utterances for how much I dislike having to wear them.

        So, the big moment came when I could finally inquire about lasik. The eye doctor said, “well actually, you don’t need to get lasik because you have a cataract on one eye and when that is removed it will negate the need for lasik.”

        I am inwardly jumping for joy….until….

        The eye doctor went on, “But, that won’t be for quite awhile yet…”

      • 4

        After most of my life of wearing glasses, constantly having to clean them, afraid of scratching them, tired of them fogging up every time I go outside, and the worst is wearing glasses in the rain, I finally decided to get lasik. I thought that instead of spending $100-$200 every year for glasses (even more if you also wear contacts, but I never did) that it would pay for lasik in just a couple of years. I also thought this was a valuable prep because if my glasses got knocked off of my head, I wouldn’t be blind and vulnerable in a survival situation. I don’t want to lose my life or get hurt because I can’t see.

        I know not everyone can do this, but if you can I would HIGHLY recommend it. Ask anyone who has had lasik if they enjoy it and I guess we all have been trained to say the same response “It’s the best money I’ve ever spent”

    • 3
    • 6

      Something else to help; Consider having a sturdy container for glasses in case required to crawl out of house during eg a fire.

      The best container I consider is a D-I-Y PVC pipe cut to the length -a little longer – to place glasses and their originial case … typically being nylon, leather, plastic … in. There are “caps” for PVC although this increases width and most pockets might not hold a wide diameter container.

      Another option – and much less costly and less time-consuming is to browse around a Walmart type store and look for large economy size bottles of vitamin pills.  Cut off the neck of the sturdy jar and presto: a somewhat strong container for glasses. 

      Believe my glasses in cases, both sun and regular have a 4″ diam requirement. My shirt pockets are 5 ” wide. My vests can accomodate larger but for a home evac with speed requirement, only the stuff on clothes rack relied on.

      • 8


        The sturdy container for glasses is a very good point. Even the so called hard cases would be susceptible to crushing.

        There is an expansion plug or expanding pipe plug that might work to cap the end of the pvc pipe without adding width to the pipe. It works the same as a thermos screw in cap, compressing as it goes in and creating a water tight container. Here’s an example of one I found:


        The pvc pipe and expansion plug can be useful for storing/carrying other items also. It doesn’t hurt to include it as part of preps.

        Come to think of it, a wide mouth thermos, like the ones used for meals, if it was deep enough might also work for an extra pair or two, plus be an available container that could be used for other purposes.

        I reuse a lot of hard containers for other items also. My protein stack containers are great for storing dry goods like flour plus I have used them for storing herbs I have dried without crushing them, like lavender.

      • 7

        Ubique, Yes, that Oatey plug serves the same purpose.

        Ref the mentioned hard containers, forgot to mention earlier that a lesser quality glasses container could be something like a large plastic/Rubbermaid brand sandwich container.  The ones at Dollar Tree are too weak but a brand name plastic container, whether side loading with cover or vertical axis loading would work.

      • 2

        Bob, I found these metal ones and the size isn’t too bad, maybe for 2-3 pairs of glasses? Michaels or other hobby stores might have them too. I would also check thrift stores as I noticed there are a lot of metal containers that land there (cookies, candy tins of different sizes/shapes)


      • 7

        Ubique,  Yes, above would work.  After posting my above sandwich container post, I noticed something here next to my new fangled telegraph key: a small cigar box.  It is sturdy and small enough to fit ina large pocket.

        For the record; I don’t smoke and box saved (used to smoke) because of picture. The idea of using a cigar box or a sturdy box that originally contained greeting cards of some sort could also work and save $.

        I do prefer waterproof type of packaging for this environment.

      • 7

        Bob, This one is really cool – fly fishing box and it’s waterproof. There are also other ones in slightly different sizes.

        Can you tell I was the kid who really preferred playing with the box my gift came in? I can’t help it, I love boxes and neat containers. I still save them.


      • 6

        Good morning Ubique, Yes, some fishing tackle boxes are ideal for prepper uses. Our area Walmart co-locates their fishing department with their boating department.  Browsing both places can yield a suitable waterproof and strong container for glasses.

        They are not that economical. The D-I-Y PVC tubing method I used was much less costly and actually stury enough for rugged use such as industrial, military, maritime.

        Yes, it’s recognized that you like the boxes as much as the contents.  Same here. Less the sturyiness category, I am fond of some food packaging.  Love the ZipLoc aluminum-plastic envelop containers.  They have multiple uses – and love based on light weight and packability even in jacket pockets.


      • 5


        I dug around and found Oakley cases – watch for imitations and sizing/fit issues


        They have a light steel case called the “vault” but I checked some reviews and photos. The vault case which is hinged along the side and simply snaps togther without a lock (from what I could make out) showed misalignment issues on closed case examples. Not good. Plus it’s not waterproof.

        Also, I found a search for crush proof cases yielded results that stated “crush resistant” which is very subjective and not the same as crush proof.

      • 5

        Just wondering guys, but do you not get hard cases with your eye glasses when you buy them??  in the UK 99.9% of eye glasses come with fabric covered metal clamshell cases with spring loaded lids usually as part of the purchase.


      • 8

        Good morning Bill, In my experiences, no. The concessions at Walmart give only nylon or plastic cases with glasses purchase. The type like pictured would be a second purchase. The clamshell cases are of various qualities and the costs coincide with each quality.

      • 10

        Sheesh I must have twenty or thirty of those cases laying around the house, I get given a case with every new pair of glasses each year.

      • 5

        You’re lucky Bill. Those cases you have could become barter items.

        We’re the same in Canada – garbage cloth “holders” that slide over the glasses with one end open so the glasses can fall out.

        I have one “hard plastic shell case” from a pair of sunglasses, however, one good step with the foot and that plastic would shatter along with the contents of the case.

        Seriously, keep your cases – they are gold.

      • 5

        Years ago my glasses came in these hard cases, but it seems like companies cheap out as time goes on and when my family has gotten glasses recently, they have been in soft bags or a semi rigid case, but nothing hard and protective like they used to. 

        Guess if they can give you a soft bag that cost $1 to make and you will pay $20-$30 extra for a hard case that’s extra money for them.

      • 5


        My husband has a hard glass case, wrapped in beautiful leather that he has had forever. Now we get a tacky little bag thingy that we are supposed to slide over our glasses and hope for the best.

        You know, I just thought of something. I’ve seen glass cases in Value Village and other thrift stores – the old hard ones. That oould be a place for sourcing them, especially if one has multiple people to supply with hard cases.

      • 3

        I can recommend these too.  Sturdy and fairly lightweight.  I’ve gotten them with my prescription progressives and sunglasses. The failure is when they are used a lot the hinge/spring loosens. (I switch between the two every time I go in/out of doors so the hinge gets a lot of use). I’ve replaced the worn brand name ones with similar items found at the dollar store.  They seemed equivalent in quality – yes for $1. 

      • 5

        That expanding pipe plug looks like it would be a good solution to bulky pvc plugs. I didn’t know that that existed, thanks for sharing.

      • 3


        I really like those PVC pipe/plug combos. They are water proof and could be used for so many things, like keeping documents or cash safe. If they were placed in the right spot in the basement, they could even act as a home safe. They would look like part of the plumbing is placed in the rights spot somehow.

        I like also that you can attach a d-ring and cord or strap and make it possible to sling over a shoulder.

    • 4

      Don’t mess with or neglect your eye care. Try going a day with a blind fold on and you will be quick to notice how much we take our vision for granted. 

      Along with trying to navigate around my house I try and do my morning routine of showering and getting ready with my eyes closed. This is something you have done every day your entire life, but are still so reliant on your eyes to accomplish. Try doing it tomorrow, it’s hard.

      Thanks for the tip on the expired eye drops, I didn’t know that.

      haha last week my wife who still wear glasses had them off and was struggling to see something across the room. I told her to do the pirate spyglass thing and she thought it was so cool.

      One thing I want to add to my first aid kit is a bottle of eyewash. I could use clean water in a pinch, but I would rather use something like this if I really had something bad in my eye. Is my vision worth $10.60? Yes. So I’m going to be adding it to my supplies.

      • 4


        You are right – we do take our vision for granted.

        The closed eyes shower is a good way for people to understand how different life becomes without vision. Balance is certainly affective and some hand/eye coordination that can affect cognitive function.

        Glad the tip on expired eye drops helped out.

        The pirate spyglass with the hand manoeuver is really cool. I like doing it for the heck of it sometimes…(no, no, I’m not really playing pirate…I’m just trying to see something…yeah, that’s it….Har Matie!) There really is an “International Talk Like a Pirate Day” on September 19 each year. 

        Great addition re the eyewash. I have to add some to my preps, too. 

        Thanks Robert!

      • 3

        Robert, That’s a super method for prepper training / practice: some some tasks blindfolded. 

        Had taken a helocopter emergency evacuation course … I only took the classroom portion; too old for the actual water evac during no visibility. Had watched it and it was gloomy, both figuratively and literally speaking. It got my attention. 

        Here at my SIP shack, all my door handles going outside already painted with fluorescent paint and circled with fluorescent tape. After returning stateside, and on own time, on these door handles, I glued a strip of course grit sandpaper.  If no visibility, can then take the chance / gamble that the handles can be felt. This effort, too, is somewhat gloomy but better than negotiating with the various volcano dieties. 

        To me, eyesight is a vital sign added to the list.