The objective of this study was to assess the impact of a major disaster on county-level preparedness for persons with mobility disabilities. The authors surveyed 30 randomly selected Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) disaster sites between 1998 and 2003 to determine disability surveillance capacity, the extent to which the disaster experience influenced changes in policies and practices, whether persons with disabilities were involved in the planning process, what factors appeared to drive the planning process, and whether current policies and procedures could be "best practices." They found that people with disabilities were poorly represented in emergency planning; federal training on the needs of people with disabilities appeared useful, although only 27% of emergency managers reported completing the training; 20% of emergency managers reported having disability guidelines in place; and county-level surveillance systems were ineffective. Sixty-six percent of counties had no intention of modifying their guidelines to accommodate the needs of persons with mobility impairments, citing limitations from (a) costs, (b) limited staffing, (c) lack of awareness, (d) other security demands, and (e) broader responsiveness to all "special needs individuals." The authors suggest that improved training, awareness, and surveillance are needed so communities can better respond to the needs of persons with disabilities before, during, and after local disasters. Possible techniques include developing improved technology assistance, providing environmental modifications to improve access for persons with disabilities during disasters, and ensuring far greater participation of persons with disabilities in all phases of the disaster planning and response process.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Health(social science)