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A Citizen’s Eye View of Public Preparedness

On ADA’s 20th Anniversary Today, Fugate Asks (& Answers) “Are Disabled Still At Risk In Disasters?”

July 26th, 2010 · No Comments

To mark today’s 20th Anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), FEMA Administrator shot a short video and wrote an article for “Are Disabled Still At Risk In Disasters,” focusing on disabled preparedness which has been a priority of his tenure.

The video urges emergency managers to continue to better integrate the disabled into preparedness planning and for the disabled community to continue to both advocate their interests with emergency managers as well as prepare themselves for emergencies.

In the piece, Fugate discusses the agency’s efforts in this area:

For years, our nation’s emergency management community simply has not done a good enough job planning for and meeting the needs of people with disabilities…

The root of the problem lies here: Historically the U.S. emergency management field has treated people with disabilities as a separate population, rather than as part of the larger community. This limited approach not only directly violates the intent of the ADA, but ties up personnel and resources when a disaster strikes. It jeopardizes everyone’s safety.

Fugate writes that FEMA and the emergency management community is making progress:

In February, we established the Office of Disability Integration and Coordination, the first office in FEMA’s history dedicated to ensuring that the needs of people with disabilities are factored into all operations.

As a result, we are already taking important steps to better support all members of our emergency management team — state and local officials, nonprofit organizations, volunteer groups and the private sector — in helping people with disabilities before, during and after a disaster.

We are working with disability advocates to incorporate the needs of people with disabilities into emergency communications and public alert systems, evacuations, transportation and medical equipment supply plans.

Preplanning for evacuations, for example, must include accessible transportation for people using wheelchairs and information that is easy to act on for people who are deaf or blind, or people who have cognitive or intellectual disabilities.

We are improving our disaster housing strategies to ensure that people with disabilities have access to general shelters and temporary housing that meet their needs and to ease their transitions back into the community. Shelters must be able to keep families intact during an emergency, instead of turning away members of a family because of a disability…

This is just the beginning of an effort that will be challenging and take a lot of hard work. This anniversary is an opportunity to reflect on how far our nation has come since the Americans with Disabilities Act was first signed into law — and to take an honest look at where we go from here. At FEMA, that means continuing to learn from the mistakes of the past to better protect and serve the entire community. It’s not only the law — it’s the right thing to do.

The full article can be found here.

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Tags: Disabled Preparedness

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