2020: National Preparedness Month
September is National Preparedness Month. This September, the United States juggled multiple disasters.
We are in the grip of a pandemic that has killed over 200,000 people nationally. We know that the pandemic affects the most marginalized communities the hardest. 80,000 of the deaths are people in nursing facilities, and Disabled Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) are negatively impacted even further. It followed July and Augusts’ trend: in nursing facilities, 11 people die per hour from COVID-19. These deaths are preventable. Meanwhile, our Disability & Disaster Hotline is responding to calls from COVID-19, the recent extreme weather and wildfires. Louisiana and Texas continue to deal with effects from Hurricane Laura and other extreme weather. Finally, 77 large wildfires have burned 3.7 million acres across the western states, evacuating thousands of people, including many people with disabilities and older adults. The Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies’ (The Partnership’s) Disability & Disaster Hotline continues to respond to older adults and people with disabilities who are impacted by these concurrent disasters.
The current emergency management systems are not directed by people with disabilities and do not prioritize the lives and rights of people with disabilities and older adults. The Partnership provides a critical resource in disaster planning, response, and recovery. As a disabled persons’ organization (DPO), we are led by people with disabilities and influence disaster planning, response, and recovery to address needs from the disaster-impacted people with disabilities and older adults. Our leadership in collaborative and intersectional initiatives with a variety of disability advocacy organizations, allies, and emergency planners shine a light on the issues of disaster-impacted people with disabilities and older adults. Furthermore, The Partnership directly responds to the needs of disaster-impacted people with disasters and older adults through our Disability & Disaster Hotline and repeated deployments to disaster-impacted areas.
We see how disabled people and older adults fall through gaps of the current disaster systems, and we call on our diverse community of advocates and supporters to help us meet the needs of these survivors.
What you can do from your home:
- DEVELOP PLANS: For people with disabilities and older adults, it is particularly important to develop a plan for disaster risks that impact your region. Plan for a variety of situations where your medication, personal service assistants, transportation, and equipment are not available.
Important: Do not assume that anyone will come to save you, serve you, or assist you out of a crisis or disaster situation. Develop plans for when you are completely alone without supports. Personal preparedness only goes so far in a system designed without input by the Disability Community.
- PREPARE A DISASTER KIT: Build a kit that will address your needs. Review this checklist by disability policy consultant, June Kailes.
- REMEMBER COVID-19 PRECAUTIONS: Your plan needs to include additional cautions for how COVID-19 and other public health emergencies may impact your plan. In your kit, include supplies, such as masks, face shields, and hand sanitizer. In your plan, how will you maintain social distancing? If a PCA becomes sick with COVID-19, what will you do?
- DRILL, DRILL, DRILL! It is not enough to write down your plan and put it away. During an emergency, you will not have time to locate it and go step-by-step. Thus, keep your plan up-to-date and practice it regularly. Practice until your disaster plan is second nature for both you and anyone who will provide support, such as a substitute PCAs. Remember to practice your plans for if no one comes to save you.
- KNOW YOUR RIGHTS IN A DISASTER: Disaster-impacted people with disabilities and older adults have the right to equal access to resources during disasters. However, in order to effectively advocate for your rights, it is important that you are familiar with your rights- and how they may play out in a disaster. Check out: Disabled? Know Your Rights in a Disaster! If you think your rights have been violated, contact our Disability & Disaster Hotline.
- DISASTER & DISABILITY HOTLINE: If you are disabled or an older adult, are impacted by a disaster, and need assistance- we are here to help! Our Disability & Disaster hotline is available and we aim to respond within 24 hours. Disaster Hotline: (800) 626-4959 / firstname.lastname@example.org
- ADVOCATE FOR INCLUSIVE DISASTER PLANNING, RESPONSE, AND RECOVERY: Together we can improve our disaster infrastructure so that it is responsive to those who are most disproportionately impacted by disasters.
- Call your elected officials. Find ALL your elected official contact numbers by entering your address: https://www.commoncause.org/find-your-representative/addr/
- Remind them that inclusive planning and response could have prevented the COVID-19 deaths of 80,000 people with disabilities and older adults in nursing facilities.
- Ask your Congressional representatives to support REAADI and DRMA – two key pieces of legislation that prioritizes people with disabilities in disaster planning, response, and recovery. (Find out more at www.reaadi.com.)