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Saving Lives in Delaware: Disability Inclusive Emergency Management Conference

Thank you for attending the Saving Lives in Delaware: Disability Inclusive Emergency Management Conference

The Delaware Statewide Independent Living Council (SILC), Independent Resources, Inc. (IRI), and The Freedom Center for Independent Living, Inc. (FCIL) sponsored a virtual conference produced by The Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies (PIDS), themed on “Saving Lives in Delaware: Disability Inclusive Emergency Management.” This was the first conference of its type hosted in Delaware where disability leaders and public health and emergency management officials came together to discuss emergency management strategies that are inclusive of people with disabilities.

After a powerful keynote speech where she acknowledged emergency managers and public health officials for their participation in the conference as panelists and attendees, Marcie Roth stressed the importance that all planning includes people with disabilities. She also discussed the devastating impact of COVID-19, particularly on people with disabilities and people with disabilities who live in nursing facilities, prisons, and other congregate settings. There were four, ninety-minute workshops focusing on saving the lives of people with disabilities by engaging in emergency management that is inclusive of people with disabilities. Lieutenant Governor Bethany Hall-Long gave an uplifting presentation after the lunch break where she invited the disability community to approach her about equitable emergency management for people with disabilities.
The two-day event concluded with the closing keynote from Javier Robles of Rutgers University.

A full, accessible transcript can be provided upon request. If you have any accessibility questions or concerns, please reach out to Priya Penner at p.penner@disasterstrategies.org.

Conference materials:

Day One:

On Wednesday, November 3, 2021, the conference began with welcoming remarks from the sponsors of the conference, Independent Resources, Inc. (IRI), The Freedom Center for Independent Living (FCIL), and the Delaware Statewide Independent Living Council (SILC). This was followed by a keynote address from Marcie Roth, Executive Director of the World Institute on Disability (WID). Active in the Independent Living movement since 1982, Marcie has served in senior and executive leadership roles for national and global disability advocacy and public policy organizations for over 25 years. Marcie was appointed by President Obama to the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), where she served as Senior Advisor to the Administrator, establishing and directing the Office of Disability Integration and Coordination until 2017.

The keynote was followed by the first workshop of the day “Introduction to Inclusive Emergency Management” which was moderated by Priya Penner from The Partnership. Panelists were Cheryl Hampson, Board Member, SILC; Alanna Smith, Independent Living Specialist, Deaf/Hard of Hearing Program, IRI; Tina Riley, Board Member, IRI; Sadie Martinez, Access and Functional Needs Coordinator, Colorado State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management; and Vance Taylor, Office of Access and Functional Needs, California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services. They engaged in a lively discussion about developing real strategies for real problems encountered by people with disabilities before, during, and after disasters. They also explored the nuts and bolts of inclusive disaster planning, response, and recovery, and resources for ensuring emergency management is inclusive of the disability community.

After a brief lunch break, Melissa Marshall from The Partnership moderated the second workshop titled “Equity and Civil Rights Obligations Before, During, and After Disasters/Emergencies.” Panelists engaged in an extensive conversation about the civil rights obligations for emergency managers, public health officials, and other local, state, and federal government before, during, and after disasters stressing the importance of collaboration, communication, and accountability. Both personal experiences with disasters and policy gaps and solutions were discussed. Panelists included Domingo García, Consumer, IRI; Daniese McMullin-Powell, Disability Rights Activist; Curtis Hill, Advocate, Disability Rights North Carolina; Marissa Band, Managing Attorney, Community Legal Aid Society, Inc.; and Emmanuel Jenkins, Community Relations Officer, Delaware Developmental Disabilities Council.

Day Two:

Thursday, November 4th, began with the third workshop “Getting and Keeping Your Seat at the Table” and was moderated by The Partnership’s Co-Executive Directors, Shaylin Sluzalis and Germán Parodi. During this panel discussion, local and national disability leaders discussed ways that people with disabilities can advocate for and maintain their seats at tables where emergency management plans are created. They also discussed how Centers for Independent Living and other providers can offer ongoing peer support, information, and resources during emergencies and disasters, and how they can best engage in personal and systemic advocacy for inclusive emergency management. Panelists included Terri and Brigitte Hancharick, Chairwoman, State Council for Persons with Disabilities and self-advocate; Todd Holloway, Senior Independent Living Advocate, Center For Independence (CFI), Washington State; Jim House, Disability Integration Manager, Coalition on Inclusive Emergency Planning (CIEP), Washington State Independent Living Council; Jenn Gilchrist, Board Member, FCIL; and Pat Maichle, Chair, SILC.

Immediately after breaking for lunch, participants were treated to remarks from Delaware’s Lieutenant Governor, Bethany Hall-Long. Lieutenant Governor Hall-Long is a former nurse with a passion for emergency preparedness. In addition to offering suggestions as to how people with disabilities can best prepare for disasters and emergencies, she invited members of the Delaware disability community to contact her about their advocacy efforts.

The Lieutenant Governor’s remarks were followed by a “Roundtable Discussion with Local Disabled Leaders and Local Public Health and Emergency Management Officials” where local public health and emergency management officials discussed with panelists with disabilities the best strategies for understanding and mitigating disability bias in emergency management. This was followed by a solutions-oriented dialogue for people with disabilities, families, allies, and state and local government agencies about barriers the disability community members face in disasters and ways to best engage with public health and emergency management moving forward. The roundtable was moderated by Lillian Harrison from the IRI Board and Priya Penner from The Partnership. Panel members were John McNeal, Director, Delaware State Council for Persons with Disabilities (SCPD); Beth MacDonald, Vulnerable Populations Coordinator, Delaware Department of Health and Social Services/Division of Public Health / Office of Preparedness; Paige Fitzgerald, Supervisor of the Community Outreach team, Special Projects Section and the Comprehensive School Safety Program, DEMA; Brittany Mosely, Citizen Corps and CERT Program Coordinator, DEMA; Ken Rolph, Coordinator of Blind Services, IRI; and Arte Mays, Consumer, IRI.

Conference attendees then heard a closing keynote by Javier Robles J.D., a professor of The Kinesiology and Health Department and Co-chair of the Rutgers University Disability Studies committee at Rutgers University. Javier is also the Director of the Center for Disability Sports, Health and Wellness at Rutgers University. He is the Chair of the New Jersey Disabilities COVID-19 Action Committee. Professor Robles called on the audience to recognize the disproportionate death and injury that happens to people with disabilities during disasters especially during the COVID-19 pandemic and to hold government agencies and elected officials accountable.

The conference concluded with energizing remarks from the sponsor organizations.

The audience shared that they “appreciated the multiple panel speakers [that allowed them] to get different voices and experience” and “the knowledge, wisdom, and resources shared by all” was the best part of the entire event. One attendee shared that they learned that “all disabled individuals need to have direct input into the State Plan.

What's Next:

The conference was very well received and attended by 70 people! Stay tuned in 2022 for more information as we will be planning on bringing you similar programs in the near future. In the meantime, reach out to your local Center for Independent Living or Your State Council for Independent Living for information to prepare for the next disaster.

Stay in touch with your community!

Freedom Center for Independent Living (FCIL)

Email: info@fcilde.org
Website: fcilde.org

400 North Broad Street, Middletown, DE 19709
Local Phone Number: (302) 376-4399
Toll-Free Number: 1 (844) 277-0700

Independent Resources, Inc (IRI)

Email: iridelaware@gmail.com

Website: https://www.iri-delaware.org/

IRI Kent County
154 South Governors Ave., Dover, DE 19904


Phone: (302) 735-4599
Fax: (302) 735-5623
Video Phone: (302) 450-1699

IRI New Castle County
Two Fox Point Centre
6 Denny Road, Suite 101, Wilmington, DE 19809

Phone: (302) 765-0191
Fax: (302) 765-0195
Video Phone: (302) 504-4754

IRI Sussex County
1609-A Middleford Rd., Seaford, DE 19973


Phone: (302) 536-1387
Fax: (302) 536-1407
Video Phone: (302) 504-4754

Delaware Statewide Independent Living Council (SILC)

Email: thedelawaresilc@gmail.com

Website: http://desilc.org/

This project is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, not an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.

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