Posted by: Marcie Roth, Director, Office of Disability Integration and Coordination
People often ask me why FEMA no longer calls people with disabilities and other people with access and functional needs “vulnerable” or “special needs”?
The answer is straightforward: it’s the people who fail to prepare who are the ones who are most vulnerable in disasters. When people with disabilities have a plan for disasters and are prepared, they are in a much better position to ensure that they have the best possible outcomes during and after a disaster such as a hurricane. With approximately 50% of the population having access and functional needs, those needs are not special, they are simply what the whole community needs to address when planning for disasters.
FEMA’s Office of Disability Integration and Coordination has been working closely with our partners and stakeholders in the disability community during this Hurricane Preparedness Week to spread the word about preparing for hurricanes, severe weather and other disasters. Last week, we held a call with representatives from the disability community and you can listen to the podcast and see the transcript from that call here.
Flemington, N.J., October 22, 2011 -- Tony Rebinbas and his son get mitigation information from Bill Praust, a Community Relations specialist, as Tyak, a service dog, looks on. FEMA provides outreach for many programs offered to disaster survivors.
Unfortunately, people with disabilities and others with access and functional needs aren’t always included in their community’s emergency preparedness efforts. Whether you have access and functional needs yourself or know of others who do, we ask that you Be A Force of Nature and help your family, friends, colleagues and neighbors to make sure they’re prepared for the next hurricane or severe weather event. Consider becoming more involved in local, regional, and state emergency management efforts. In this respect, full inclusion in community preparedness efforts ensures that no one is “special” or has “special needs”. Rather, everyone is working together towards a fully prepared community.
In the following video, Neil McDevitt, our Disability Integration Communications Specialist, joins me in talking about how the Office of Disability Integration and Coordination is working with our internal and external partners to enhance awareness of preparedness for the whole community and we’re also talking about steps we’re taking personally to prepare for hurricanes this year.
FEMA encourages all individuals in hurricane-prone areas to know your risk and make a pledge to prepare at www.ready.gov/hurricanes. You can complete your emergency preparedness plan, update your emergency kit and Be a Force of Nature and share your preparedness efforts with family, friends and Community partners.