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Disaster Mitigation for People with Disabilties: A Research Resource Guide

This guide has been written to serve as an index of relevant literature in the field of disaster mitigation for people with disabilities. It is divided into four sections: laws relating to disaster mitigation, disaster preparation, disaster response, and post-disaster response.

Laws relating to disaster mitigation

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The ADA is Public Law 101-336 and was enacted on July 26th, 1990. The text of the ADA can be found online at http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/ada/pubs/ada.txt, as well as by calling the U.S. Department of Justice at 1-800-514-0301 (Voice) or 1-800-514-0383 (TDD). Publications are available in standard print as well as large print, audiotape, Braille, and computer disk for people with disabilities.

A summary of the ADA’s Design Requirements for Accessible Egress can be found online, at www.access-board.gov/evac.htm.

To learn more about the ADA, you may call the Disability Law Resource Project at 1-800-949-4232 or 713-520-0232.

Emergency Access Rules, Federal Communications Commission (FCC)

The FCC issued a reminder to broadcasters about its requirements for emergency access for the people with disabilities, and provided a good summary of the laws in place in this document. It can be found at: http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DA-02-1852A1.pdf

In this document, the FCC lists the following laws as relevant to their emergency access rules:

“See Closed Captioning and Video Description of Video Programming, Implementation of Section 305 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, Accessibility of Emergency Programming, MM Docket No. 95-176, FCC 00-136, Second Report and Order, 15 FCC Rcd 6615 (2000); see also, Accessibility of Emergency Programming Rule Requiring OMB Approval Effective as of August 29, 2000, Public Notice, DA 00-1996, 15 FCC Rcd 15968 (rel. Aug. 31, 2000).

Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act)

The full text of the OSH Act can be found on the OSHA website, www.osha.gov, under the “Compliance Assistance” heading. It can also be ordered for free from OSHA :

U.S. Department of Labor/OSHA
OSHA Publications
P.O. Box 37535 Washington, D.C. 20013-7535
Telephone: (202) 693-1888 or by Fax: (202) 693-2498

Another resource is a speech given by K. Dane Snowden, Chief of the Consumer Information Bureau of the FCC to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, Division of Emergency Management on January 9th, 2002. It can be found online at ftp.fcc.gov/cgb/snowden/01-09-02.html.

The FCC can also be contacted at 1-800-CALL-FCC (1-800-225-5322) or 1-800-TELL-FCC (1-800-835-5322).

Disaster preparation

Cold Weather Preparations for Disabled Populations”, HELPU Fire and Life Safety, 2002, http://www.helpusafety.org/cold2000.html

This short document provides several practical suggestions for people with disabilities to prepare for and respond to cold weather.

“Disaster Preparedness and Response Program”, American Veterinary Medical Association

This guide describes several ways pet-owners (including individuals with disabilities with service animals) can provide for their pets’ safety in the event of an emergency. These methods include placing stickers on one’s door stating that a pet is inside, making sure one’s pet has an identification tag, keeping a copy of the pet’s medical history on hand, and assembling an emergency supply kit for the pet.

“Disaster Preparedness for People with Disabilities”, American Red Cross, 2002

This document serves as a guide for people with disabilities to prepare for disasters and to respond disasters once they occur. It provides evaluation worksheets for individuals to assess exactly what kind of assistance they will need in the event of an emergency, and describes how individuals may go about preparing personal support networks to insure that they are not stranded in the event of a disaster. It also includes information on how to prepare one’s home and car for the event of disaster, how to assemble emergency supply kits, and how the disability community can prepare for disasters.

Disaster Preparedness for Persons with Disabilities: Improving California’s Response”, California Department of Rehabilitation, 1997, www.oes.ca.gov (search for title once at the site)

This document focuses on how disaster preparedness can be improved in California, but also includes several tips that are helpful for all disaster planners. It includes suggestions on how to improve volunteer and staff training, how to make emergency shelters more accessible, how to increase the availability of Braille, large-type text, and TTY/TDD, how to improve transportation for people with disabilities during disasters, and how to improve the relocation of individuals with disabilities to new housing once a disaster is over. It also identifies some of the most prominent problems that occurred during the 1994 Northridge earthquake, such as the prohibition of guide dogs from shelters, the lack of accessible transportation, and the difficulty in obtaining replacement equipment and medication. The guide concludes with a list of resources, both for California and for the nation as a whole, and appendices on language guidelines for communicating with people with disabilities and finding individuals who participated in community forums on disaster preparedness.

Disaster Preparedness for People with Disabilities – Resources”, National Organization on Disability, 2002, www.nod.org (search for article once at site)

NOD provides an extensive list of websites, articles, checklists, and training programs at this site. Many of the sites are listed in this guide as well.

Disaster Preparedness: Reasoning Why”, HELPU, http://www.helpusafety.org/3PREPSDI.pdf

This document asks the reader a variety of questions to determine whether he or she is physically and emotionally ready for the possibility of disaster. It also provides suggestions on how to prepare oneself for the event of disaster.

Emergency Evacuation Preparedness: Taking Responsibility for Your Safety”, June Kailes, 2002, http://www.cdihp.org/evacuationpdf.htm

This guide includes information on the following: putting together a disaster preparedness plan, how to evaluate one’s disaster needs, how to communicate with emergency workers in the event of a disaster, how to establish personal support networks, and how to create strategies for evacuation. It also includes a list of references and resources on the topic of disaster preparedness. Ms. Kailes also has a list of disaster resources on the internet, at http://www.jik.com/disaster.html.

Emergency Evacuation Procedures,” Job Accommodation Network (JAN), 2002, www.jvu.edu/media/emergency.html

This document provides suggestions on how to improve one’s emergency response plan and training program, as well as various work-site modifications and accommodations that may be employed to mitigate disasters. It also includes a list of resources on the topic of emergency preparedness for people with disabilities.

Emergency Plans that Include Workers with Disabilities”, eSight Careers Network, 2001, www.esight.org

This article questions whether many businesses adequately prepared both their management and their employees with disabilities for disaster in the wake of September 11th. It provides numerous suggestions for improving building safety, such as establishing “buddy” systems, providing descent chairs for individuals with wheelchairs, installing emergency running lights on the floor, and preparing “72-hour” emergency packs.

“Emergency Preparedness Initiative” (EPI), National Organization on Disability, 2002

Written in the wake of September 11th, the EPI seeks to inform emergency planners of the needs and concerns of the disability community during catastrophes. It identifies those private and public institutions that need to be involved in disaster planning and makes specific suggestions on how those institutions could improve their preparedness programs. It describes the need for special needs registries, disability phone trees, improved closed captioning and TTY/TDD availability, improved evacuation planning, and increased involvement of people with disabilities in disaster recovery efforts.

Emergency Preparedness Resources”, 2002?, Disability Preparedness Center, www.disabilitypreparedness.org/additional%20resources.htm

This is an extensive list of disaster preparedness resources, divided into the following categories: training, products, articles, and websites.

Emergency Warnings: Notification of Deaf or Hard of Hearing People”, 2002?,
www.nad.org/info center/infotogo/legal/EmergencyNotification.html

This document provides information on how people who are deaf or hard of hearing can obtain news of weather warnings or any other emergency warnings. It includes information on what obligations local and national television broadcasters have to provide closed captioning, as well as information on where to obtain special needs radio receivers and emergency warning pager systems. It concludes with several suggestions on how education and emergency response for people with disabilities could be improved, and offers a list of resources on the subject of disaster preparedness.

“Enabling Safe Evacuations”, Susanne Bruyere and William Stothers, HR Magazine, September 22nd, 2002

This article outlines 10 suggestions for how employers can make their buildings safer for people with disabilities. These include identifying people with disabilities ahead of time, consulting these individuals to find out what kind of assistance they need if any, conducting evacuation drills, and creating a “buddy” system to help them in the event of an emergency.

“Evacuating High-Rise Buildings: OSHA Fact Sheet”, OSHA, 2003

This short document includes suggestions for creating safe evacuation routes in high-rise buildings, preparing employees for the event of disaster, evacuating safely during an emergency, and a list of various other disaster-preparedness resources.

“Evacuation Planning for Disabled Employees”, Bureau of National Affairs, document no. 128

This document offers advice on various aspects of evacuation planning. It contains sections on identifying employees with disabilities within an organization, preparing those employees for an evacuation, and what evacuation techniques an organization should use in the event of a disaster. It also contains several sample documents to be used as templates when designing an evacuation program.

Fact Sheet on Obtaining and Using Employee Medical Information as Part of Emergency Evacuation Procedures”, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), 2002, www.eeoc.gov/facts/evacuation.html

The EEOC’s fact sheet addresses the issue of employee privacy as it relates to emergency planning. It answers such questions as “May an employer ask employees whether they will require assistance in the event of an evacuation?”, and “How may an employer identify individuals who may require assistance?” It covers the ADA’s provisions regarding privacy and emergency planning, and explains who can and cannot have access to information about employees’ health status.

“Fire Prevention for Persons with Disabilities”, Eastern Paralyzed Veterans Association, 2002

This excellent guide provides information on what steps individuals with disabilities can take to prevent fires, how they can deal with fires if they do occur, as well as where to write for more information on fire prevention and response. It has recommendations on the importance of fire detectors, how to devise and practice fire evacuation plans, how to prevent fire and burn injury, and how to avoid various fire risks.

“Fire Risks…” series, United States Fire Administration (USFA), 1999

Made up of “Fire Risks for the Blind or Visually Impaired”, “Fire Risks for the Deaf or Hard of Hearing”, “Fire Risks for Older Adults”, and “Fire Risks for the Mobility Impaired”, this series identifies some of the impediments for individuals with disabilities that still exist under current construction and disaster laws. It includes recommendations on how planners can remove these impediments, as well as suggestions on how individuals can best prepare for the event of fire. These documents can be requested from the USFA at:

United States Fire Administration
16825 South Seton Avenue
Emmitsburg, MD 21727
Phone: (301) 447-1000
Fax: (301) 447-1052

“How to Plan for Workplace Emergencies and Evacuations”, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), 2001

While not specifically targeted towards people with disabilities, this document is a good guide to general disaster preparedness. It describes the minimum standards required by OSHA for workplace evacuation plans, and provides specific advice on how to prepare one’s building and employees for the event of disaster. It also has a list of OSHA’s emergency regulations, primarily section 1910 of the agency’s General Industry Occupational Safety and Health Standards (29 CFR 1910). These standards address the following areas of disaster prevention: means of egress, hazardous materials, personal protective equipment, general environmental controls, medical and first aid, fire protection, electrical power generation and distribution, and toxic and hazardous substances.

It also describes OSHA’s “Consultation Service,” which serves to evaluate the safety and healthfulness of businesses, allowing employers to bring their buildings up to code before inspectors discover any problems. The service is free of charge and completely confidential

Locating People with Disabilities in Your Community to Include in Emergency Preparedness Planning”, National Organization on Disability, 2002, http://www.nod.org/content.cfm?id=788

This short document provides a list of organizations that planners should try to involve in the disaster planning process, including Centers for Independent Living, the Veterans Administration, and State Vocational and Rehabilitation Agencies, among others.

The National Center on Emergency Preparedness for People with Disabilities (NCEPPD) Training Kits”, Disability Preparedness Center, 2002, www.disabilitypreparedness.org/Resources.htm

This is a list of seminars, simulations and documents offered by the NCEPPD on the subject of emergency preparedness.

“Preparing Your Business for the Unthinkable”, American Red Cross

This short document offers several suggestions for developing a disaster preparedness plan, how to protect employees and customers in the event of a disaster, as well as how to reduce any damage that might result from a disaster.

State Offices and Agencies of Emergency Management”, 2002, http://www.fema.gov/fema/statedr.shtm

FEMA put out this list of all the state emergency management agencies and their website addresses.

Ten Ways to Make Yourself Safe at Work”, Nicole Bondi, 2001, www.ican.com

Ms. Bondi provides a short list of suggestions on how people with disabilities can better prepare for disasters, including establishing an emergency support network, joining company risk management teams, identifying oneself as disabled at hotels, and carrying a small flashlight at all times.

“Tips For …” series, Independent Living Resource Center, in cooperation with June Kailes

This series was originally intended for earthquake survivors, but provides information that applies to most emergencies. The series begins with the general guide, “Tips for People with Disabilities”, which describes steps all individuals with disabilities can take in preparation for a disaster, and continues with specific tip sheets for individuals with visual impairments, hearing loss, communication or speech related disabilities, psychiatric disabilities, developmental or cognitive disabilities, mobility disabilities, multiple chemical sensitivities, individuals on life support systems, or individuals with service animals. The tip sheets provide suggestions on how to put together an emergency supply kit, how to devise an evacuation plan, and how to insure communication with others during times of crisis.

Special Needs in Emergency Planning and Preparedness”, Paul Imperiale, Disability Program Coordinator, San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Community Development, 1997, http://www.oes.ca.gov/oeshomep.nsf

This document describes difficulties individuals with disabilities may have communicating and moving in the case of emergency, and provides several suggestions for how to deal with these difficulties. It recommends preparing an emergency plan and practicing the plan with frequent drills. It concludes with a list of suggestions “to insure that [local government’s] special populations have been well provided for in emergencies.” These suggestions include creating a local registry of elderly people and people with disabilities so that they can be helped more quickly in the event of a disaster, and making educational materials available in a variety of formats, such as large print, audio cassette, and non-English languages, so that different segments of the disability community can read them.

Disaster Response

Evacuation Devices”, Job Accommodation Network, http://www.jan.wvu.edu/cgi-win/OrgQuery.exe?Sol193

This document provides addresses and phone numbers for the primary emergency chair manufacturers, such as Evac + Chair, Garaventa Acessibility, and Stryker EMS.

Assisting People with Disabilities in a Disaster”, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), 2002, www.fema.gov/rrr/assistf.shtm

This short document lists several suggestions for anyone who thinks she might be required to assist an individual with a disability in the event of a disaster. It includes tips on assisting people who are deaf or hard of hearing, blind or visually impaired, assisting individuals with guide dogs, individuals with mental retardation and individuals with epilepsy. It recommends making an emergency plan and establishing self-help networks.

Disaster Preparedness for People with Disabilities”, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), 2002, www.fema.gov/library/disprepf.shtm

FEMA’s guide provides several suggestions for how people with disabilities and their friends and family can react to disasters. It recommends developing a self-help network, keeping a supply of extra batteries on hand for important devices such as wheelchairs or hearing aids, and securing any items in one’s home that could fall or obstruct escape paths.

“Emergency Procedures for Employees with Disabilities in Office Occupancies” USFA, 1995

This document is partly a guide to disaster preparation and partly a guide to disaster response. It includes information on putting together registries of employees with disabilities, establishing a “buddy” system, conducting evacuation drills, and establishing “areas of rescue assistance”. It also lists information on how to carry a person down stairs, and descriptions of the various chair lifts and controlled descent chairs available on the market. It can be requested by writing to the USFA at:

United States Fire Administration
16825 South Seton Avenues
Emmitsburg, MD 21727
Phone: (301) 447-1000
Fax: (301) 447-1052

Evacuation Considerations for the Elderly, Disabled and Special Medical Care Issues”, Missouri State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), 2002, www.sema.state.mo.us/elderly1.htm

This document recommends establishing disaster plans, as well as creating registries of elderly individuals, people with disabilities and anyone else that might need assistance in the event of a catastrophe. It lists a variety of problems which may be faced when evacuating a building, such as dementia, hearing loss, and fear of being removed from one’s home, and gives suggestions on how to deal with these problems.

Lifts and Carries”, California Emergency Response Team,

Reproduced from a Boy Scouts of America guide, this document details how to perform various emergency carries, such as the “fireman carry”, the “four-handed seat”, and the “ankle pull.”

Post-Disaster Response

Coping Guide: Helping Children Cope with Disaster”, Project Cope, 2001, www.nymc.edu/wihd/projectcope/pc/guide1.html

This guide provides advice on what reactions parents can expect from their children in the event of a disaster, as well as how these reactions may differ for children of different ages. It offers a variety of strategies to cope with trauma, including educating children, limiting their exposure to television coverage of the disaster, and communicating openly with them about the disaster. It also offers advice on how to help children with cognitive or physical disabilities in the event of a disaster.

Coping with Disaster: A Guide for Families and Others who Support Adults with Cognitive Disabilities”, Project Cope, www.nymc.edu/wihd/projectcope/pc/adultguide1.html

This document explains how individuals with cognitive disabilities may react to disaster, as well as tips on helping these individuals cope with disasters, and advice on when and where to seek professional help.

“Fact Sheets/Psychological Implications and Interventions”, George Washington University, 2002

This index is a collection of documents relating to the identification and treatment of psychological trauma brought about by a “critical incidence,” which is defined in the index as “any event that causes unusually strong emotional reactions that have the potential to interfere with the ability to function normally.” The index provides information on how to plan for disaster as well as recommendations on how to help employees cope with psychological trauma after disaster strikes. It also offers advice on how to help children deal with the aftereffects of disaster.

List of Important Websites

National Organization of the Disabled (www.nod.org)
iCan, a website devoted to accessibility issues (www.ican.com)
The Disability Preparedness Center (www.disabilitypreparedness.org)
The American Red Cross (www.redcross.org)
The Federal Emergency Management Administration (www.fema.gov)
The Job Accommodation Network (www.jan.wvu.edu)
The Eastern Paralyzed Veterans Association (www.epva.org)
The United States Fire Administration (www.usfa.fema.gov)
The Center for an Accessible Society (www.accessiblesociety.org)
The Access Board, an independent federal agency devoted to providing access for people with disabilities (www.access-board.gov)
The National Association of the Deaf (www.nad.org)
The Federal Communications Commission (www.fcc.gov)
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (www.osha.gov)
Ms. Kailes website lists disaster resources available on the Internet (http://www.jik.com/disaster.html)

Another excellent resource guide, which contains the full text of some of the resources listed above, is organized in a collection published by George Washington University, “Rehabilitation Considerations Post 9-11: Critical Incidence and Crisis Management – A Compilation of Resources”, and can be requested by writing to Shannon Peters at:

The George Washington University
Regional Rehabilitation Continuing Education Program
2011 Eye Street, NW, Suite 300
Washington, DC 20052

NOAA weather radio http://www.nws.noaa.gov/nwr/
This information was sent during the webcast:
This is a comment, not a question:

As a person with a severe hearing impairment, I would never count on any local news station to provide captions when broadcasting information on tornados or other emergencies. Instead, I use a NOAA weather radio that displays a short text message describing the nature of any emergency declared in my area.

Weather radios can be left indefinitely in stand-by mode. They are silent until an emergency is declared, at which time they sound an alarm and then broadcast a spoken message concerning the emergency. Strobe lights and bed vibrators are available as attachments for people who cannot hear the alarm, and most models display text messages.


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Last Modified: August 22, 2012