FEMA To Include Disability Advocates In Emergency Planning
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is joining forces with a disability rights group in an effort to better serve people with special needs during disasters.
In a White House meeting Friday afternoon, FEMA is expected to sign a memorandum of agreement with the National Disability Rights Network, an umbrella group for the protection and advocacy organizations in each state. The agreement will ensure the advocates a seat at the table as FEMA plans for and responds to emergencies.
“One of the lessons that came from Katrina was that first responders were woefully underprepared and that many federal, state and local disaster plans did not include provisions for individuals with disabilities,” says David Card, a spokesman for the National Disability Rights Network. “This agreement will put disability advocates in the room during policy discussions and planning, and in the command centers during an emergency.”
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FEMA signed a similar agreement with the National Council on Independent Living last July, which guaranteed that organization and its affiliated groups throughout the country access to disaster recovery centers in the event of an emergency.
“We will never be truly prepared and resilient as a country if we only plan for the easy parts of the population,” FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate said at the time. “FEMA is committed to working with state and local officials — and the general public — to ensure planning for emergencies includes the community as a whole.”
In testimony before Congress last summer, FEMA officials acknowledged that while they have plans to assist people with disabilities, the agency did not as of that time have the staff or funding to fully implement such procedures in emergencies.