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Emergency planning often misses disability needs: new hurricane Katrina report pinpoints several response gaps.



In times of emergencies, the needs of people living with disabilities are often overlooked, according to according to
prep.
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.

2. In keeping with: according to instructions.

3.
 a recent report that calls for new initiatives that bring disabled people into the emergency planning process.

For example, of the six local emergency managers surveyed in areas of Alabama Alabama, indigenous people of North America
Alabama (ăləbăm`ə), indigenous people of North America whose language belongs to the Muskogean branch of the Hokan-Siouan linguistic stock (see Native American languages).
, Mississippi Mississippi, state, United States
Mississippi (mĭs'əsĭp`ē), one of the Deep South states of the United States. It is bordered by Alabama (E), the Gulf of Mexico (S), Arkansas and Louisiana, with most of the border formed by
 and Louisiana Louisiana (ləwē'zēăn`ə, lē'–), state in the S central United States. It is bounded by Mississippi, with the Mississippi R.  affected by Hurricane Katrina Editing of this page by unregistered or newly registered users is currently disabled due to vandalism. , which devastated dev·as·tate  
tr.v. dev·as·tat·ed, dev·as·tat·ing, dev·as·tates
1. To lay waste; destroy.

2. To overwhelm; confound; stun: was devastated by the rude remark.
 the U.S. Gulf Coast in August 2005, five reported no contact with local disability organizations before the storm and only two said disability groups had been involved in the emergency planning process, according to "Assessing the Impact of Hurricane Katrina on Persons with Disabilities." While the January report, which was funded via the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) is a United States governmental institution that provides leadership and support for a comprehensive program of research related to the rehabilitation of individuals with disabilities. , focused on the impact of Katrina, its recommendations address the preparedness pre·par·ed·ness  
n.
The state of being prepared, especially military readiness for combat.

Noun 1. preparedness - the state of having been made ready or prepared for use or action (especially military action); "putting them
 gaps that are likely found throughout the nation in regard to people with disabilities.

"People with disabilities need to be aware that they've got some responsibilities when it comes to being in harm's way harm's way
n.
A risky position; danger: a place for the children that is out of harm's way; ships that sail into harm's way. 
," said APHA member Glen White, PhD, a co-author co·au·thor or co-au·thor  
n.
A collaborating or joint author.

tr.v. co·au·thored, co·au·thor·ing, co·au·thors
To be a collaborating or joint author of: "He and a colleague . . .
 of the report and director of the Research and Training Center on Independent Living at the University of Kansas The University of Kansas (often referred to as KU or just Kansas) is an institution of higher learning in Lawrence, Kansas. The main campus resides atop Mount Oread. . "But it's also important that people with disabilities advocate to local emergency managers and other policy-makers the importance of including people with disabilities in the planning process upfront."

In addition to emergency management personnel, the report's authors also surveyed and interviewed people associated with centers for independent living, which are nonresidential organizations designed and operated by people with disabilities that provide an array of independent living services. Among the Katrina-affected centers for independent living, report authors found substantial gaps in planning and communication. Four of six centers for independent living surveyed had no staff with disaster preparedness training and five centers had no plans that would enable them to continue services if a disaster hit. While some centers surveyed had a relationship with local emergency personnel, none had developed a formal emergency plan in collaboration with emergency managers. Also, the majority of centers reported that they expected the people they serve to initiate their own preparedness plans, and only one center surveyed had preparedness information available.

The findings of the Katrina report may not be surprising to those familiar with previous research on people with disabilities and emergencies. White is also involved in the three-year Nobody Left Behind study, which is based at the University of Kansas and is charged with investigating whether local emergency plans address and include people with disabilities. As part of the study, researchers randomly selected 30 U.S. counties to investigate, finding that only 20 percent have anything dealing with people with disabilities in their emergency plans, White told The Nation's Health.

One of the problems people with disabilities encounter is that emergency planners often group them in the same category with special-needs special-needs or special needs
adj.
Of or relating to people who have specific needs, as those associated with a disability.
 populations, such as pregnant women and people for whom English is a second language, White noted, and when faced with a such a diversity of difference, it can be hard for emergency planners to meet any one need in an appropriate way. But even changing emergency language, such as calling special-needs shelters "functional support shelters" instead, would help highlight people with disabilities and their needs during the planning process, White said. For example, during Katrina many people with disabilities had difficulty maneuvering in and around shelters.

"Don't look at us as special, but look at what people need," said White, a past chair of APHA's Dis-Ability Forum.

To shore up such preparedness planning, the disability report made a number of recommendations. Among them are creating a new initiative to bring together statewide independent living councils and emergency management in every state; creating a disaster response and recovery curriculum for centers for independent living; developing community efforts to identify people with disabilities who need assistance; and investing in back-up support systems that would enable people with disabilities to maintain access to social and medical services.

"People have to be more involved and have a voice to make sure they're included," White said.

For a copy of the report, visit www.rtcil.org.
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Author:Krisberg, Kim
Publication:The Nation's Health
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2007
Words:677
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