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Are local offices of emergency management prepared for people with disabilities? Results from the FEMA Region 9 Survey

Robyn R. Gershon, MHS, DrPH, Michelle A. Muska, EMT, MPH, Qi Zhi, MPH, Lewis E. Kraus, MPH, MCP

Abstract


Objective: To assess disaster planning of local Offices of Emergency Management (OEM) with respect to people with disabilities (PWD).

Design: A cross-sectional study of local OEM from Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Region 9 (N = 61) was conducted using an internet-based survey. The primary outcome was the adoption of emergency management recommendations by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and FEMA in applying Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Results: OEM implementation of ADA requirements was generally suboptimal. While 63 percent reported that plans addressed the needs of PWD, only 41 percent reported detailed operating procedures for PWD. Training of staff to ensure that they were knowledgeable on the ADA requirements for inclusivity was rarely conducted. While accessible shelters and transportation were often identified, accessible communication strategies, including emergency notifications, were often lacking; only 28 percent of OEMs reported availability of sign language interpreters at shelters. Shelters often allowed service animal access (62 percent), but fewer allowed access to personal assistants (39 percent). Engagement of the disability community, from plan development to community drills, was uncommon. While more than half (59 percent) of OEM felt clear about their responsibilities in providing equal access to PWD, only 23 percent reported having qualified staff and other resources necessary in order to meet those responsibilities. Participants cited the need for more training on the ADA requirements in order to better meet the needs of PWD.

Conclusion: Strategies for improvement to assure inclusiveness of PWD in all phases of emergency management are needed.


Keywords


disaster planning, office of emergency management (OEM), people with disabilities (PWD), ADA

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References


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5055/jem.0506

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