At today’s Backyards & Beyond conference in Salt Lake City, NFPA’s Allan Fraser, senior building code specialist, talked about the need for communities to be proactive about the creation of emergency plans that include the participation of people with disabilities.
He said that 20% of American have disabilities that may affect their ability to read or understand preparedness information, hear alerts and warnings, use accessible transportation during an evacuation, or other activities we may take for granted.
“When we talk about disabilities, it’s not about a specific group of people,” said Allan. “It’s about a specific time for all of us. It may be a short time (if we break an arm or a leg) or a longer period of time. But if we all think about what we want our environment to be when we become disabled, instead of if we become disabled, we’re all better off.”
Allan referenced a 2013 United Nations survey that declared that a high proportion of persons with disabilities die or suffer injuries during disasters because they are rarely consulted about their needs and governments lack adequate measures to address them. He said one strategy is to empower people with disabilities with the knowledge and practice they need before disaster strikes.
“Make time to go out and train this part of your population,” said Allan, referencing senior centers, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, churches, and schools. “This will reduce your work when responding during an actual event.”
Allan provided examples of resources attendees could use to learn more about creating emergency plans that best serve people with mobility, visual, hearing, speech, and cognitive disabilities, as well as everyone else. “By clearing the path for people with special needs, you clear the path for everyone,” he said.
Those resources include:
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