General Planning Tips - Preparedness
During emergencies, there may not be much time for individuals and responders to react. Therefore, it is important to have emergency plans in place ahead of an event. This is particularly important for people who may need more time to react to a situation. To prepare their community, emergency planners should consider the following:
Use existing data to map disabilities. The U.S. Census Bureau maintains and collects data on the country's population. They compile self-reported numbers and features of people in communities, including those with disabilities. State planners can use this information to predict the needs within a community. Knowing the needs of a community will help:
To access the Census 2000 data, go to www.census.gov/main/www/cen2000.html.Back to Top
Locate people with disabilities in your community. According to the National Organization on Disability, there are many groups that planners can work with to identify the needs of their community. These include:Back to Top
Reach out to the community. It is important to consider the needs of the community in an emergency plan. Planners should reach out to people with disabilities to learn their challenges and concerns. By working together, planners and people with disabilities can support the needs of a community. Topics for discussion include:Back to Top
Partner with disability agencies. There are groups that serve people with disabilities on a daily basis. They can be valuable sources of information and resources to include in the planning process. These groups usually know where to find those with disabilities and how to contact them, if necessary. Many have specialized staff that can provide insight into the particular needs, wants, and feelings of people with disabilities. By creating partnerships with these agencies, planners can:Back to Top
Create a voluntary registry of special needs. It may be helpful for emergency plans to include lists of individuals and any disabilities they may have so that responders can quickly find and help those who may not be able to help themselves. Disabilities registries can be used to:
A registry would contain the names and contact information of people with disabilities. It may also list a person's disability (or disabilities) and any supports they depend on. Planners may develop these registries in a variety of ways, but a simple approach to ensuring compliance with state or other laws related to health information privacy would be to obtain the information in the registry voluntarily and directly from the consumer. Emergency planners may also work with health care providers and service agencies to obtain the information. Guidance on how health information protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, Privacy Rule may be available for this and other emergency planning purposes is available on the HHS Office for Civil Rights website at http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/hipaa/decisiontool/.
Since some people with disabilities may choose not to share their information, disabilities registries may be incomplete. Planners should use voluntary registries only as guides and not as definitive or exhaustive lists. Work with disabilities groups and agencies to compile these lists and keep them up to date.
Case Study: The disabilities registry in Louisiana, created after Hurricane Katrina, provides a strong link to the community. To register, residents can call a 311-information hotline and report their disabilities. Operators will record the caller's contact information, number of people to evacuate, and the disabilities of each. Operators create a case file for the registrant and forward it for input into the database. A postcard is then sent to the registrant with information on how and where to access transportation, when to call back with information updates, and a list of supplies to bring with in an evacuation.
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Train responders and volunteers before an event. There is not enough time to train people to aid those with disabilities during an event. Therefore, responders and volunteers must be trained prior to the disaster. Course topics could include (but is not limited to):Back to Top
Practice and exercise all plans. Practice is important to ensuring plans and protocols are effective. It can also help volunteers and responders become more familiar with their duties. Therefore, it is important that they drill and exercise with disabilities groups and caregivers to practice their skills. Topics for drills and exercises may include (but is not limited to):Back to Top