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Independent Living News & Policy from the National Council on Independent Living

NCIL Emergency Preparedness Subcommittee Presents A New Document: Building Relationships with Local Emergency Management

The following document, entitled “Building Relationships with Local Emergency Management”, has been created by the Emergency Preparedness Subcommittee of the National Council on Independent Living. Our purpose with this document is to provide you with a guideline for ensuring that people with disabilities are provided with appropriate and accessible services before, during and after a disaster.

Our country has experienced devastating disasters in recent years. Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Ivan killed hundreds of individuals in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, the majority of whom were people with disabilities. Thousands of individuals with disabilities who were forced to evacuate have never returned. Many ended up in institutional settings. Super Storm Sandy devastated New Jersey and New York. Again people perished because they were not adequately served with disaster response and relief. In 2014 we have experienced destructive tornados, wild fires, flooding, and blizzards. Even after years of hard work in building relationships, we still dealt with inaccessible and inadequate services.

We must aggressively address the inadequacies of the emergency preparedness and response system in this country. The Emergency Preparedness Subcommittee is doing just that, but we need your help. We have developed good, working relationships with federal agencies tasked with providing disaster relief and response. NCIL has Memorandums of Understanding with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the American Red Cross, and Portlight Strategies. We are working closely with them to develop better systems of service. Finally, the disability community is well represented on several national committees and task forces and our voices are being heard.

However, disaster relief is as much of a local issue as it is a national issue. FEMA cannot deploy to a disaster site until and unless they are asked to respond by state and local emergency managers. The American Red Cross relies on their state and regional managers to respond and deploy as needed. This is where we need your assistance. In order to ensure that people with disabilities are being adequately served, we must be involved on a local level. The best and most effective way for that to happen is for you, your CIL and/or SILC to develop relationships with the emergency response entities in your state, city, county or parish. Active involvement in task forces, at meetings, trainings and conferences is imperative. 

This document has been developed to provide a simple, but effective timeline for developing these necessary relationships and getting involved. We suggest that it can be followed in a five month time frame, however we understand the limited capacity of some local CILs and realize that more time may be needed. We just want you to use it to your benefit so that we can begin addressing the issues locally, and hopefully prevent needless deaths after the next disaster in your area.

Any member of the Emergency Preparedness Subcommittee stands ready to assist you in your efforts to build these local relationships. We have expertise on the committee and successful stories to tell of how we can work together to address this issue. Please contact us if you need assistance or if you have questions. We can be reached through the NCIL offices.

Thank you for all you do to ensure accessible and appropriate services to individuals with disabilities in your community!


  1. Eric Tissenbaum says

    The Appalachian Center for independent Living Has and excellent working relationship with many members of Emergency Management. We not only collaborat and do joint presentations they do contact us during disaters and other situations for response to needs of the disability community. We also collaborated on a APP for first responders to use with people with communication disorders. We sit on the local emergency planning committee board and the DHHR Access and functional needs committee. The State Dept. of Education also asked us to help the make sure their State plans were in compliance as well.

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