Disaster Planning for Special Needs Populations

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Disaster Planning for Special Needs Populations Meeting the Needs of the Entire Community: 

Disaster Planning for Special Needs Populations Meeting the Needs of the Entire Community January 17, 2007 Presented by: Lori Risk, MOT, OTR/L Assistant Director Center for Excellence in Disabilities Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center West Virginia University

Topics for Discussion: 

Topics for Discussion Events which have brought this issue to the forefront Identification of unmet needs in disaster planning and response Definition of “special needs populations” Critical needs for special needs populations in disaster planning Best practices currently being implemented


History Numerous disasters in recent years have led public health and emergency planners to assess human service needs and issues that were met or unmet before, during or after crises. 9/11, anthrax attacks, hurricanes, power outages, SARS, West Nile Virus These events made it evident that national, state and local emergency planning and response must be improved to fully integrate the needs of special populations.

Lessons Learned: 

Lessons Learned Traditional methods of communicating health and emergency information often fall short of the goal of reaching everyone in the community Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Relief agencies cannot wait until they are in the middle of a disaster to start training their staff in disability awareness and reach out to make their services known. Lessons Learned from the World Trade Center Disaster Center for Independence of the Disabled in New York September 2004

Lessons Learned: 

Lessons Learned Emergency responders, as well as relief and other service agencies, must incorporate into their planning and operations an appropriate strategy for ensuring equitable access to response and recovery services. Lessons Learned from the World Trade Center Disaster Center for Independence of the Disabled in New York September 2004

Meeting the Needs of the Entire Community: 

Meeting the Needs of the Entire Community Preparedness and response activities must have the capacity to reach every person. People with disabilities should be able to use the same systems as other residents of the community in which they live. Although they may need additional services, the emergency management system must work to build provisions for these services into its plans so that people with disabilities are not excluded from services available to the rest of the community. National Emergency Training Center Emergency Management Institute 1993 Although significant strides have been made in certain parts of the country and many agencies and organizations are working on this issue, we still have a long way to go.

Defining “Special Needs Populations” : 

Defining “Special Needs Populations” “Groups that are not fully addressed by traditional service providers or who feel they cannot comfortably or safely access and use the standard resources offered in disaster preparedness, relief and recovery” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Public Health Workbook – not an official definition May include people who have a variety of visual, hearing, mobility, cognitive, emotional and mental limitations, as well as older people, people who use life support systems, people who use service animals, and people who are medically or chemically dependent. NOD, Saving Lives report, April 2005

Defining “Special Needs Populations”: 

Defining “Special Needs Populations” Does not apply just to people whose disabilities are noticeable, also applies to people with heart disease, emotional or psychiatric conditions, arthritis, significant allergies, asthma, multiple chemical sensitivities, respiratory conditions, and some visual, hearing and cognitive disabilities. NOD, Saving Lives report, April 2005 Examples Disabilities Physical, cognitive, sensory, mental illness Chronic illness Economic disadvantage Limited language competence Cultural/geographic isolation Age vulnerability Incarcerated

ADA Definition of Disability: 

ADA Definition of Disability The Americans with Disabilities Act defines a person with a disability as someone who: Has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities Has a record of such an impairment, or Is regarded as having such an impairment [42 U.S.C. 12102(2)]

National Statistics: 

National Statistics Approximately 54 million individuals in the United States, 21% of the population, live with disabilities. Nearly 29% of American families include at least one person with a disability. 61% of people with disabilities have not made plans to quickly and safely evacuate their homes. 58% of people with disabilities do not know whom to contact about emergency plans for their community in the event of a disaster. 50% of people with disabilities who are employed full or part time say no plans have been made for a safe evacuation at their workplace.

National Statistics: 

National Statistics Nearly 4 million people require assistance with daily living activities. 1.5 million persons use wheelchairs. More than 8 million Americans have limited vision. 130,000 are completely blind. 28 million Americans have hearing loss. 500,000 Americans are completely deaf. More than 7 million people with mental retardation.

West Virginia Statistics: 

West Virginia Statistics The 2003 Census Update estimated that approximately 24.1% of West Virginians have a disability. Almost 16% of West Virginia’s population is age 65 or older, giving it the highest median age of residents in the nation. US Census, 2003

West Virginia Workshops: Disaster Planning for Special Needs Populations: 

West Virginia Workshops: Disaster Planning for Special Needs Populations VMC®/Homeland Security Programs at West Virginia University Five regional workshops Identify and address emergency planning needs of individuals with disabilities, elderly individuals and children.

Workshop Participants: 

Workshop Participants Individuals with disabilities/family members Disability organizations Advocacy organizations Emergency managers Emergency responders State agency representatives Public health Law enforcement Health care providers Community organizations


Planning All response is local “Functional Needs” must be well defined in the early stages of planning to ensure that the planning process is effective with dealing with functional needs of individuals during an emergency. Non-government officials and individuals with real functional needs must be involved in the planning process. Every individual is different; do not lump people with special needs and assume one size fits all. Not all people with disabilities need special considerations in emergency planning.

Planning Considerations: 

Planning Considerations Planning should consider people who: Use mobility aids or who have limited stamina Use oxygen or ventilators Are blind or who have low vision Are deaf or hard of hearing Have a cognitive disability Have difficulty communicating English as a second language Non-verbal/use communication device Speech difficult to understand Have a mental illness Use personal attendant services for daily living Use assistive technology for daily living Use service animals

Key Questions for Planners: 

Key Questions for Planners How will you reach out to people with a variety of special needs in your community? How will you insure that people with special needs have a voice in planning? What do you need to know to meet the needs of people with special needs during an emergency? How will you evacuate everyone? In an emergency, is there a place for everyone?

Some Key Points for Planning: 

Some Key Points for Planning Communication Involvement of Stakeholders Evacuation/Sheltering Accessibility Post-Emergency Response Personal Preparedness


Communication Clear communication and clarified roles and responsibilities among agencies Emergency communication procedures that are accessible to all Assessment of county-by-county resources

Involvement of Stakeholders in Community Planning: 

Involvement of Stakeholders in Community Planning Increase capacity of local emergency planners, responders, volunteers and community organizations to meet the needs of individuals physical, cognitive, sensory and mental health needs. Provide cross-training for emergency managers, planners, community organizations, individuals with disabilities, caregivers. Involve stakeholders in planning, implementation and evaluation of emergency planning and activities. Make sure everyone knows what to do in the event of an emergency.

Evacuation and Sheltering: 

Evacuation and Sheltering Address cultural, geographic and other reasons why people don’t evacuate Coordinate transportation Accessible shelters Need for personal assistance Need for service animals Need for equipment and supplies Need for utilities, including durable medical equipment, oxygen, refrigeration for insulin, electricity to recharge electric wheelchairs and other equipment Focus on universal design of all shelters to meet the needs of the majority of individuals, except for individuals with medical needs such as dialysis and ventilators. Make sure policies promote inclusion


Disasters create new physical barriers and eliminate services used by everyone. For people with disabilities, this may take away their ability to do tasks that they can usually do, and as such, keep them from responding to the disaster as others do. Lessons Learned from the World Trade Center Disaster Center for Independence of the Disabled in New York September 2004

Accessibility Considerations: 

Accessibility Considerations Alternate formats Physical accessibility Complexity of language used Auditory descriptions of visual aids Sign language interpreters

Post Emergency Response: 

Post Emergency Response Plans needed for discharging individuals with special needs from shelters and other temporary housing Resource coordination/case management Formal and informal supports Personal care needs Accessible housing Restored services and benefits

Personal Preparedness: 

Personal Preparedness Educational messages should be aimed at encouraging personal preparedness and self-identification of assistance needs. Personal evacuation plans Reconnecting with family, friends and other supports Medications Supplies Sharing needs with emergency responders and shelter staff.

Best Practices: 

Best Practices Training Memoranda of Understanding Use of ADA Consultants Shelter in Place plans Self-registration programs Secured supplies for shelters including wheelchairs, medical equipment Identified sign language interpreters Pagers for individuals who are deaf Special needs annexes to county emergency operations plans Community volunteer programs


Resources American Red Cross Disaster Preparedness for People with Disabilities www.redcross.org/services/disaster/beprepared/disability.pdf FEMA Disaster Preparedness for People with Disabilities www.fema.gov/library/disprepf.shtm Homeland Security: U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security Disability Preparedness-Personal Preparedness Planning www.dhs.gov/dhspublic/interapp/editorial/editorial_0665.xml U.S. Dept. of Justice: Civil Rights Division An ADA Guide to Local Governments: Making Community Emergency Preparedness and Response Programs Accessible to People with Disabilities www.ada.gov/emergencyprep/htm The Center for Disability Issues and the Health Professions, Western University of Health Sciences Emergency Evacuation Preparedness: Taking Responsibility for Your Safety www.cdihp.org Disability Preparedness Center Emergency Preparedness at Home for People with Disabilities www.disabilitypreparedness.org National Council on Disability Saving Lives: Including People with Disabilities in Emergency Planning www.ncd.gov National Organization on Disability Prepare Yourself: Disaster Readiness Tips for People with Disabilities www.nod.org

Thank you!: 

Thank you! For more information: Lori Risk, MOT, OTR/L Center for Excellence in Disabilities 959 Hartman Run Road Morgantown, WV 26505 304-293-4692, ext. 1113 lrisk@hsc.wvu.edu www.cedwvu.org

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