On any given day a disaster or emergency can happen. While it is important for everyone to be prepared, it is especially important for people with disabilities. Being prepared is not enough, though. People with disabilities must also be involved in emergency planning and management. Why is it important, even critical, you ask? Here’s are five reasons why:
1) Help ourselves and our families.
If people with disabilities are involved in emergency management, we can use our skills and training to help our families if an emergency ever happens. We’ll be able to show them how to prepare for a disaster and what to do if it happens.
2) Make local and state officials aware of the needs of the disability community.
By being involved in emergency management, we’re bound to come into contact with local or state officials who are decision or policy makers in this arena. What happens if we are not involved? The chances are more than likely, indeed, almost certain, that the disability community will be left out of a jurisdiction’s emergency plan.
3) Serve as an example to other people with disabilities.
If individuals with disabilities are active and involved, we serve as an example to others with disabilities, motivating them to also become involved in emergency management in whatever ways they can.
4) Become an asset to our neighborhoods and communities.
People with disabilities are often seen as being in need of assistance rather than giving it. When we become involved, we become assets to our neighborhoods and change the way people see us.
5) We can be a resource to local officials and agencies.
As we become more and more involved, we’ll tend to become a resource or go-to person for local officials and agencies who want to be kept abreast of our needs and how we can help them review, design and implement emergency plans.
Now that we’ve got that covered, people with disabilities can get involved in emergency management in several ways:
Contact the Office of Emergency Management
Almost every jurisdiction has an Office of Emergency Management or Office of Homeland Security or Public Safety Commission. Contact them to see how you can become a volunteer.
Join a local CERT unit.
CERT stands for Community Emergency Response Team. CERTs are ordinary folks who help first responders in the event of an emergency or disaster, or some local community or educational event. Anyone can become a CERT, including people with disabilities. Almost every state and county has one, and the training to become a CERT is free.
Join a Citizen Corps Access and Functional Needs Committee.
Citizen Corps is the umbrella for CERT. It has a number of committees, including an Access and Functional Needs Committee, the umbrella committee that includes people with disabilities. This committee makes recommendations, helps to set policies and designs exercises among other things for its region. By joining, we can be at the table on the ground floor in emergency planning, lessening the chance of our community being forgotten.
Get involved in your city, county or state Commission on Disability.
Join, run for or get appointed to your city, county or state Commission on Disability so that you can get them to get serious about emergency preparedness and emergency management. That body will have the power to advise your mayor, county executive or governor on inclusive emergency management policies that can then be implemented in your jurisdiction.
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