Almost 3 Million People with Disabilities in the Path of Hurricane Florence

The Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies and Portlight Strategies are, once again, leading a national effort to fill the gaps in the nation’s plan to meet the disaster related needs of people with disabilities in the path of hurricane Florence and several other dangerous storms threatening landfall in the Atlantic, Pacific, Caribbean and Gulf.

And, once again, we need your help.

There are almost 3 million people with disabilities among the 10 million people currently in the path of dangerous hurricane Florence. Despite laws requiring equal access to emergency services and programs, massive federal funding investments and years of effort by disability organizations to compel communities to plan for the emergency and disaster related needs of 26% of the US population, it is already clear that evacuation and sheltering plans are falling short, placing individuals with disabilities and communities in jeopardy, once again.

Our Disaster Hotline (800) 626-4959, response teams, support for local disability organizations, stakeholder coordination, key partnerships, “just-in-time” training, technical assistance and advocacy services are all being provided to address the unmet needs of people with disabilities impacted by disasters.

For assistance with disability related needs, please call our disaster hotline at (800) 626-4959 or email us at

To support our work and for media inquiries, you may also reach us at (800) 626-4959 or by email at


Disaster Hotline

(800) 626-4959

The Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies (the Partnership) is the only national membership organization with a mission of equal access to emergency and disaster programs before, during and after disasters for people with disabilities.We are the nation’s experts on disability rights, accessibility and inclusion throughout all phases of disaster operations.

Our members represent disability organizations in every congressional district in the country, and our member organizations and their affiliates operate in virtually every US community.We know that community resilience is only possible when planning, response and recovery is accessible to all and includes people with disabilities and others with access and functional needs as key members of community preparedness and resilience initiatives, before, during and after disasters.

The Partnership’s Disaster Hotline provides information, referrals, guidance, technical assistance and resources to people with disabilities, their families, allies, organizations assisting disaster impacted individuals with disabilities and others seeking assistance with immediate and urgent disaster related needs.

The Disaster Hotline is always available for intake calls, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year at (800) 626-4959 and

We will have our knowledgeable team respond to your call as soon as possible, often immediately, and we intend to respond to all callers within 24 hours. Our hotline team is led by experts on the many issues affecting people with disabilities in disasters and strategies for meeting those immediate needs. We can provide accessible and multilingual information to callers, including via videophone for Deaf callers, upon request to

Issues we provide information, guidance and referrals for:

· Urgent disability related disaster response referrals

· Prevention of institutionalization during and after disasters

· Applying for, understanding and navigating FEMA and other federal, state and local government emergency and disaster programs and services

· Disability rights before, during and after disasters

· Accessible and actionable emergency information

· Building and neighborhood evacuation

· Accessible transportation

· Sheltering and temporary housing

· Disaster housing programs

· Alternatives to “special needs” and “medical” sheltering and “special needs” and “voluntary” registries

· Health maintenance

· Health care access

· Disability accommodations in disasters

· Repair, replacement and loaned durable medical equipment, disability supplies, and assistive devices

· Returning home, school, work and community after a disaster

· Navigating disaster recovery initiatives

· Disaster funding

The Disaster Hotline is available to:

· Disaster impacted individuals with disabilities, their families and allies

· Disability advocacy and services organizations

· Community organizations seeking to assist disaster impacted individuals with disabilities

· Government and non-government representatives from emergency management, public health, medical, private sector, business, voluntary organizations active in disasters, faith-based, elected officials and others seeking to assist individuals with disabilities and disaster impacted communities

· Media inquiries

· Donors and others who seek to support our work


September 9, 2018

Extreme Weather Update

Dear Friends,

We are watching several hurricanes very closely and ask that you join us to make sure that people with disabilities, older adults and others with access and functional needs are squarely at the center of all planning and throughout disaster response and recovery, if any of these hurricanes/typhoons makes landfall.

Currently, we are watching:

Florence- East Coast





In the words of our friend and Weather Underground founder, Jeff Masters, “If you live in a hurricane-prone location, now is a good time to make sure you have a preparedness plan in place! This is the craziest peak week of hurricane season I’ve ever experienced!” His most current blog warns, “Florence is likely to make landfall on Thursday evening or Friday morning on the Southeast U.S. East Coast, or remain just offshore. The odds have increased that Florence will stall on Friday and meander near or over the coast for several days, making the hurricane a huge rainfall and coastal flooding threat.”

Given all of this potential for extreme weather, and the lack of disaster preparedness progress made by government planners since last year’s hurricanes and wildfires, Portlight and the Partnership are readying our Disaster Hotline, our deployment teams, our assistance for distributing medical equipment and supplies and assistive devices, guiding and participating in disaster policy initiatives and especially supporting local leaders and collaborating with stakeholders.We plan to move from weekly stakeholder calls to daily calls later this week if needed.

The Government Accountability Office recently reported that “more than half of the workers FEMA was deploying to last year’s disasters were known to be unqualified for the jobs they were doing in the field”.

FEMA has also made it well known that they no longer plan to provide more than a handful of qualified disability integration advisors as a part of their support to states requesting assistance in disasters, opting instead to use generalists to meet their obligations to provide equal access to their programs and services. Additionally, FEMA’s Office of Disability Integration and Coordination recently informed local and state disability organizations that they “will not be hosting or engaging in national level disability stakeholder calls” until local and state disability organizations exceed their capacity to meet the needs of disaster impacted individuals with disabilities, at which point they “may reach to national disability organizations for additional assistance.”

We are committed to optimizing outcomes for disaster impacted children and adults with disabilities, older adults and others with access and functional needs despite inadequate planning, non-compliance with civil rights obligations, a lack of collaboration and limited government investments in supporting local disability organizations and service providers. We will continue to offer our support, resources and expertise to FEMA and all emergency managers and welcome every opportunity to work together in support of disaster impacted individuals and communities. We will not wait for local and state partners seeking our help to fail before stepping in. Our work is ALWAYS in support of local leadership and our resources are ALWAYS invested in supporting their capacity to meet the needs of their community.

Please continue to support our efforts throughout the 2018 hurricane season and the many other hazards our communities face all throughout the year. More than ever, we need your help. Visit us at and to make your donation via PayPal. You can also send your support to us at PO Box 14109 Charleston, SC 29422.

We appreciate your partnership and your generosity!


Paul Timmons and Marcie Roth

Getting it Right 2018 National Inclusive Disaster Strategies Conference

Why do we need to GET IT RIGHT?

The past year has been a time of devastating community and economic impacts due to disasters around the world. In the U.S., there were at least 16 billion-dollar catastrophic disasters and hundreds of lives lost. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the cumulative cost of these disasters is already more than $306.2 billion dollars, which shattered the previous U.S. annual record cost of $214.8 billion dollars established in 2005 due to the impacts of Hurricanes Dennis, Katrina, Rita and Wilma. Of the people who lost their lives or sustained serious injuries, people with disabilities and older adults continue to be impacted at disproportionally high rates. Disability inclusive emergency preparedness is imperative to whole community readiness and resilience.

We can, and we must GET IT RIGHT!

Our Getting It Right conferences bring together leading inclusive emergency and disaster experts, disability leaders, emergency managers, planners, federal, tribal, territorial, state and local government, elected officials, public health and public safety experts, faith leaders, business and industry and higher education leaders who want to learn more about how to improve readiness and recovery for individuals, families, communities and businesses. The focus of Getting It Right is on expanding our shared commitment to achieving and sustaining disability inclusive whole community emergency preparedness, community resilience, response, recovery and mitigation before, during, and after disasters.

What is the Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies?

The Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies (the Partnership) is a national coalition of thousands of individuals and organizations with a shared mission. We are committed to increasing individual and community capacity for equal access and full inclusion of people with access and functional needs for optimal whole community emergency preparedness, support when disaster strikes and community engagement throughout disaster recovery to build back better and truly improve safety and community resilience for all.


Wednesday, May 23

4:00-9:00 Registration

5:00-9:00 Exhibits

5:00-6:00 Reception and Networking

6:00-8:00 Opening Session (Z)

Marcie Roth, CEO, Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies

  • 2017-2018 Disaster After Action Report
    • June Kailes & Melissa Marshall
  • Getting It Right Act
  • Center for Excellence in Inclusion, Resilience and Accessibility Before, During, and After Disasters (CEIRA Institute)

Portlight and National Disability Rights Network Memorandum of Agreement (Z)

Four Wheel City Musical Performance (Z)

8:00-9:00 Dessert Reception

Thursday, May 24

7:30-8:30 Registration

8 - 8:30 Breakfast with exhibitors

8:30 – 9 Welcome (Z)

Marcie Roth, CEO, Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies

9:00-10:00 W. Craig Fugate, FEMA Administrator 2009-2017 (Z)

10:00 - 10:20 Congressman Benny Thompson (MS), Ranking Member, House Homeland Security Committee (Z)

10:20 -10:30 Break

10:30-11:30 Getting It Right Act- How a Bill Becomes a Law (Z)

Michael Gamel-McCormick, Disability Policy Director, Senate Special Committee on Aging, Moderator

Lauren McClain, Homeland Security Committee, Rep. Benny Thompson (MS)

Kim Knackstedt, Rep. Bobby Scott (VA)

11:30 - 12:30 DisabilityRights and Disasters (Z)

John Wodatch, Moderator

Jennifer Sultan, US Department of Homeland Security, Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties

Billy Altom, National Council on Disability

Janet Collazo, Executive Director, Defensoría para las Personas con Impedimentos, Disability Rights Puerto Rico

Rebecca Rodgers, Disability Rights Advocates

12:30 - 1:30 Lunch with exhibitors


Show Me the Money! Funding Disability Inclusive Preparedness, Response and Recovery (Z)

Ben Smilowitz, Smart Response, Disaster Accountability Project

Rebekah Tosado, DHS Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties

Marcie Roth, Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies

1 :30-2:30 All Disasters are Local-Getting It Right on the Ground (Z)

Kelly Buckland, National Council on Independent Living, Moderator

Disability Leaders from Puerto Rico, Texas, California and Hawaii

  • Living Hope Wheelchair Association, Houston, TX (Remote)
  • California Foundation for Independent Living Centers (Remote)
  • Puerto Rico Disability and Disaster Network
  • Hawaii Disability and Communication Access Board

2:30-3:30 Public Health, Mass Care and Disability Rights (Z)

Marcie Roth, Moderator

Mary Casey Lockyer, American Red Cross

Margaret Schaefer, DHS Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties

Merrill Friedman, Anthem Inc.

Patrick Cokley, Anthem Inc.

Zachary Usher, FEMA Individual Assistance

3:30-3:45 Break

3:45- 4:45 Equipment and Devices Lost, Left Behind, Damaged and Destroyed- Now What? (Z)

Carolyn Phillips, Interim Director, AMAC Accessibility Solutions & Research Center, Georgia Institute of Technology, Moderator

Liz Persaud, Pass It on Center

Jessica Michot and Angela Lorio, Trach Mommas

Dustin Snowadzky, Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies

4:45 - 5:45 The Inconvenient Truth About Registries, Power, Alerts and Evacuation (Z)

June Kailes, Associate Director, Harris Family Center for Disability and Health Policy, Western University of Health Sciences, Moderator

Sarah Tuneberg, CEO, Geospiza, Inc.

Maria Town, Director, Houston Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities

5:45- 6:15 Linda Mastandrea, Director, FEMA Office of Disability Integration and Coordination (Z)

6:15 – 7:00 Exhibitor reception

Friday, May 25

8:00 - 8:30 Breakfast with exhibitors

8:30 - 9:30 Mayors Forum (Z)

Melissa Marshall, J.D., Moderator

Mayor Maria “Mayita” Melendez, Ponce, PR

Maria Town, Director, Houston Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities

9:30 -10:30 Disaster Recovery and Community Resilience- Housing, Universal Design, Inclusion and Civil Rights (Z)

Brian Parsons, Senior Policy Advisor, DHS Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties,Moderator

Rebecca Cokley, Center for American Progress

Sarah Mickelson, Senior Director of Public Policy, National Low-Income Housing Coalition

Chris Smith, Director, Individual Assistance Division, Federal Emergency Management Agency

10:30 -10:45 Break

10:45 - 11:15 Preparing the Territories- What Have We Learned, What Happens Now? (Z)

Adriane Griffen, Senior Director of Public Health and Leadership
Association of University Centers on Disabilities

Daphnee Guilleume, Association of University Centers on Disabilities

UCEED Leaders from Guam, US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, American Samoa and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands

11:15-12:00 Getting the Disaster and Disability Story Right, No More Inspiration Porn (Z)

Sarah Blahovec, National Council on Independent Living

Stephanie Hydal, Westside Center for Independent Living

David Perry, Journalist

Anita Cameron, ADAPT

12:00 - 12:30 Closing Session: Getting It Right, Right Now, A Call to Action (Z)

Marcie Roth


Stakeholder organizations and individuals actively involved or interested in inclusive disaster...



Conferences and workshops that bring together people with disabilities and first responders.



The Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies, a clearinghouse for information and a community...


Donate to the cause.


The Partnership galvanizes and amplifies the voice of the national disability community and works with local, state, tribal, territorial and federal emergency managers to create a more inclusive and accessible structure within their jurisdictions. The Partnership looks to the Trump Administration for support on our initiatives and to share our mission to achieve whole community inclusive emergency preparedness and equal access to emergency services and programs in every community.


Man in wheelchair by the water

© Copyright 2017 Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies