April Reed works at Independent Living. She works with community leaders to provide better emergency care. Although there are agencies and programs in place to provide help during natural disasters, it is important for individuals to prepare for emergencies.
"We witnessed a series of natural disaster here in the United States in 2017 and an estimated loss in a report by Climate was about $300 billion dollars, many of this cost resulted from the loss of private, family homes. What about the loss of lives due to inaccessibility? It is said that no one is talking about the avoidable death of people with disabilities in some of these natural disasters. But it will be great if those of us in the disability community educate each other on how to get into safety during emergencies," April Reed said.
Over the years, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has been leading and supporting the nation in a comprehensive, risk-based emergency management program of mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery, but preparation for disasters is a collective responsibility. This meant that individuals must have an emergency first aid kit.
"You need to have a ready-to-go kit with important papers because they’re hard to get back, make sure you have your money, radio and flashlight ready, if you need to buy that one extra water bottle, it's fine. Keep your emergency kit box small to fit your lifestyle. You don’t need to get it all now. Remember that, for the first few days after a disaster, help may not be available. You have to be prepared," Reeds said.
"I have seen first-hand how the disability community is affected by natural disasters. People with disabilities need to know that accommodations [in shelters after a disaster] are crucial. They need to know that FEMA’s language ‘Functional Needs’ is a term that will be used to categorize them for post-disaster care," Gillian Aitken, a volunteer, and nurse at Red Cross disaster-relief said. "To be at safety before natural disasters, people with disabilities need to always seek information about their community, whether forecast and news alert, information is key, they need to create cloud storage for their documents. They must know their abilities as well."
Although there are agencies in place to help people with disabilities during natural disasters, it is important for people with disabilities to know that they are their own first line of defense.
Image credit: CEFutcher