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Emergency Plans Lacking For Most With Disabilities

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When disaster strikes, most people with disabilities are unprepared, leaving them vulnerable to injury and even death, a first-of-its-kind survey finds.

Just 20 percent of the world’s people with disabilities could evacuate immediately without difficulty in the event of a disaster, according to the global survey conducted by the United Nations.

Some 6 percent said they would not be able to escape at all while the remainder indicated they could evacuate with varying degrees of difficulty.

For the survey, 5,450 people with disabilities from 126 countries answered 22 questions about their plans in case of a disaster. Preliminary findings were released this week ahead of the International Day for Disaster Reduction on Sunday.

About 7 in 10 individuals polled said they have no personal preparedness plan and only a third said they always have someone available to help them evacuate. Meanwhile, just 17 percent of respondents were aware of the disaster management plan for their city and few had been consulted on their community’s plan.

“The results of this survey are shocking,” said Margareta Wahlström, head of the U.N. Office for Disaster Risk Reduction. “It clearly reveals that the key reason why a disproportionate number of disabled persons suffer and die in disasters is because their needs are ignored and neglected by the official planning process in the majority of situations. They are often left totally reliant on the kindness of family, friends and neighbors for their survival and safety.”

Survey respondents described taking special precautions when concerned about bad weather, with one sleeping in a wheelchair in order to be able to take cover quickly and another who’s unable to hear sirens staying up to watch storm coverage.

Suggestions from those polled included everything from making sure that wheelchair access is considered in emergency evacuation plans to a recommendation that color-coded systems are avoided since they may be unhelpful for color-blind individuals.

Wahlström said the concerns raised in the survey responses will better inform U.N. member states when they convene for the 2015 World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Japan to adopt a new global framework for disaster risk reduction.

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Comments (3 Responses)

  1. mariecamp says:

    Go to your local city council members and demand a meeting on this issue. If you don’t demand action they won’t do it. Work your way up the ladder until you get your answers. If you have a center of independent living near you go to them and they will help you. People with disabilities cannot and will not be ignored.

  2. Cathy says:

    I totally agree with this article about the polling and the frightful outcomes. I am vice chair of a Local Emergency Planning Committee and am on a Federal/State planning council for developmental disabilities. I have brought the issue up repeatedly to the emergency planning council and they say: they will be taken care of we don’t have to worry. Even the local public health representative became agitated with my continual upbringing of this worry. Maybe FEMA should be TOLD to have local plans in place for the disabled world, led by disabled people with no ifs, and, or butts. We legislate every thing else, why not this. By the way I am a mother of a developmentally disabled son and a medically disabled son.

  3. Kathy says:

    The media should have a plan to have sign language interpreters with all emergency broadcasts. Close captain on all stations and verbal broadcast information where stations have them contact a hot line for people with disabilities can contact in case of relocation. This means TTY and relay numbers set up for massive service. Don’t over look technology of computers and cell phones has other means of communication for the deaf and disabilted. This way it can be asssesed what types of transportation vehiles are needed to successfully assist during a crisis.Written materials in braille and sign language, close captain will be essential to inform people of these services. In addition create a forum for people with special needs to gather and input on what it is that they know is necessary. Never ignore their care takers. They will be with them to assists.

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