Nearly seven years after Hurricane Katrina exposed gaping holes in emergency planning, federal officials are calling on communities to bring people with disabilities to the table as they prepare for the worst.
“It is of the upmost importance that people with disabilities are actively involved from the very beginning of these processes and every step along the way,” Marcie Roth, the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s director of disability integration and coordination, told a group in New Jersey this week, according to the Asbury Park Press.
Roth said communities need to consider a variety of needs ranging from physical accessibility to chemical sensitivities, among other factors.
“Everybody needs to be in emergency management because the communities that are going to be most resilient are the communities who get the whole community actively involved,” Roth said.
FEMA has been ramping up its focus on people with disabilities in recent years, signing agreements with the National Disability Rights Network and the National Council on Independent Living to include advocates in emergency planning, among other efforts.
Nonetheless, agency officials have acknowledged that despite solid planning, FEMA faces challenges in serving those with disabilities during disasters largely due to to limited funding.