Lessons learned from the world trade center disaster: Emergency Preparedness for People with Disabilities in New York September 2004 contents

Relief agencies cannot wait until they are in the middle of a disaster to start training their staff in disability awareness

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Relief agencies cannot wait until they are in the middle of a disaster to start training their staff in disability awareness. Train volunteers and staff ahead of time in basic disability awareness and etiquette, and in how to accommodate needs that commonly arise for people with disabilities.

  • The day after a disaster is too late for agencies to start doing outreach to make their services known to people with disabilities. It is necessary to communicate with members of the disability community:

      • On an ongoing basis, as part of a preparedness outreach effort;

      • Before an event, to warn about an emergency;

      • During an event, to give information and instruction about the emergency; or

      • After an event, the give information about recovering from the emergency.

  • During the recovery phase, there must be a priority to restore or address those services and needs most critical to people with disabilities, especially related to access to home attendants, assistive equipment, medication, accessible transportation and temporary shelter, and food delivery.

Any disaster will, by definition, disrupt lives. Still, some response and recovery issues are predictable, common to many disasters and crisis situations: these are the ones that can be successfully minimized through pre-crisis planning and preparation.
For people with disabilities, however, existing disaster response and recovery measures are significantly less successful, given that little systemic preparation is conceived of or conducted by mainstream emergency responders with their specific needs in mind. In fact, most of the planning related to emergency measures for people with disabilities consists of lists of things that consumers and their advocates should do – a practical first step, but one that clearly requires additional substantial support by emergency responders who have incorporated into their planning and operations an appropriate strategy for ensuring equitable access to response and recovery services.
The Center for Independence of the Disabled in New York (CIDNY) supports all efforts to help people with disabilities prepare themselves for emergencies, an approach that coincides with its fundamental mission of assisting consumers in achieving maximum independence. CIDNY has distributed thousands of brochures with advice and checklists on disaster preparedness to consumers and sister agencies working with the disability community. CIDNY actively provides technical assistance to government and other social service agencies on ways in which to assist people with disabilities during and after emergency situations. To strengthen this effort, this report focuses on what relief agencies and other service providers can do -- and have done -- to give people with disabilities the same chance as other members of the public to survive and recover from disasters.

[Former Executive Director] Scheer says CIDNY has realized it has a large constituency of people with disabilities who are not traditionally considered independent living consumers.
We’ve come to know a lot of people,’ she says, ‘who were doing their own things and had successfully created their own support networks. When their support systems crumbled -- as they so dramatically did [on 9/11] -- many still thought they could work things out themselves. But as things dragged on, they found they needed assistance.
9-11 Offers Important Lessons In Disaster Preparedness,”

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