September is National Disaster Preparedness Month

Regulation | September 04, 2018 | by Colleen Bloom

Disasters don’t plan ahead. You can. LeadingAge’s Disaster Resources: Preparedness, Response and Recovery webpage includes links to help members find the most appropriate resource for them in any phase of disaster planning, response or recovery.

Our resources webpage includes information active hurricane monitoring, identification of local emergency response agencies, templates for disaster planning, facility and individual preparedness training videos, guides, worksheets and checklists. So, make an emergency plan today & practice it. And help raise awareness using #PrepareNow #NatlPrep.

However, the rest of this article focuses on updates on dementia and caregiving in a disaster, and ensuring accessibility in communications and services for persons with disabilities, and persons with limited English proficiency.

Addressing the Special Challenges of Disasters and Persons with Dementia

Persons with dementia may require additional assistance and consideration during a disaster situation. “The Calm Before the Storm: Family Conversations about Disaster Planning, Caregiving, Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia” developed by the Hartford Center for Mature Market Excellence is a free downloadable publication that covers a range of contingency for effectively and confidently helping a loved one with dementia through a major event, and includes useful checklists for substitute caregivers and tips for helping to maintain a stable and comforting environment and for responding to agitated behaviors.

Ensuring Accessible Services and Communications for Persons with Disabilities

By law, persons with disabilities must continue to receive services and communications in an accessible way. One of the best ways to accomplish this, according to The Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies, Inc is for disaster preparedness planners to seek out disability groups in the area to review your disaster plans. For member providers, this could mean asking a focus group of your residents or area service recipients with disabilities (not just physical mobility issues, but hearing and/or speech impaired) to take a look at your plan and/or be part of your periodic exercises, and let you know if they think their needs are being met in the best possible way.

The Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies, Inc. is a clearinghouse for information and a community organizing resource focused on meeting the access and functional needs of people with disabilities throughout emergency preparedness, disaster planning, response, recovery and mitigation. Partnership resources include a Hotline - (800) 626-4959 - operated by a dedicated volunteer network of disability experts that use a case-management model to support persons with disabilities and organizations working to intentionally address disability inclusive disaster response, relief and recovery efforts.

Communicating in Accessible Formats and Languages

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights (OCR) has identified certain practices and resources for emergency responders and others to help ensure individuals have equal access to emergency services.

  • Employing qualified interpreter services to assist individuals with limited English proficiency and individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing during response and recovery activities
  • Making emergency messaging available in languages prevalent in the area and in multiple formats, such as audio, large print, and captioning and ensuring that websites providing disaster-related information are accessible
  • Making use of multiple outlets and resources for messaging to reach individuals with disabilities, individuals with limited English proficiency, and members of diverse faith communities.
  • Considering the needs of individuals with mobility impairments and individuals with assistive devices or durable medical equipment in providing transportation for evacuation
  • Identifying and publicizing accessible sheltering facilities that include accessible features, such as bathing, toileting, and eating facilities and bedding
  • Avoiding separating people from their sources of support, such as service animals, durable medical equipment, caregivers, medication and supplies
  • Stocking shelters with items that will help people to maintain independence such as hearing aid batteries, canes, and walkers

According to the federally created National Disaster Recovery Framework, “care must be taken to assure that actions, both intentional and unintentional, do not exclude groups of people based on race, color, national origin (including limited English proficiency), religion, sex or disability.”

Strategies for Inclusive Planning in Emergency provides specific recommendations on ways providers can ensure that persons with disabilities continue to receive services and communications in an accessible way.

Limited English Proficiency

Under Section 504, providers are also obligated to provide disaster-related services and communications in appropriate languages for persons with limited English proficiency. Share preparedness information from Ready.gov in 12 other languages.

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and its implementing regulations also obligate recipients of federal financial assistance to ensure nondiscrimination in federally-assisted emergency preparedness, response, mitigation, and recovery programs and activities. All recipients must comply with Title VI, as well as other anti-discrimination laws, at all times including during emergencies. Title VI provides that “[n]o person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” Title VI’s implementing regulations explain that recipients of federal financial assistance:

Share preparedness information from Ready.gov in 12 other languages