Emergency Preparedness for Vulnerable Populations

This week as part of the America’s National PrepareAthon, Humanity Road is launching our awareness campaign for vulnerable population groups.  Preparing for an emergency is important, but even more so for individuals who are dependent on electricity, special treatments,  durable equipment and other services which could be a survival risk if disrupted.  After polling the public we have created a hashtag to organize content so that the public, caregivers, responders and emergency management can follow the discussion, share their programs and access key information.  Social Media Emergency Management (#SMEM) covers a broad topic, but #DAFN will cover items and discussions specific to preparedness and response for persons with disabilities and functional needs.

How can I engage and take part:  In Twitter follow hashtag #DAFN.
Who should follow and participate in the discussion?  Citizens with special and functional needs and their caretakers, Elder care agencies, emergency managers, disability specialists, nursing homes, centers for independent living, special service agencies and care teams (such as altzheimers, oncology, dialysis, diabetes) and health agencies that maintain a vulnerable population registry and accessibility programs should use that hashtag to inform the public about special registries and special instructions.  Caretakers and individuals with access and functional needs should join in the discussion to talk about their plans and discuss challenges.

What is “Vulnerable Population”:    Vulnerable population programs include individuals with special or functional needs, persons with disabilities and elderly.  Registries and program services can change from location to location and can cover a broad range of services.


View in FEMA Multimedia Library

What is a Vulnerable Population Registry?  Some local emergency management offices maintain registries for people with disabilities.  Some registries are only used to collect planning information; others may be used to offer assistance in emergencies. If you add your name and information to a registry be sure you understand what you can expect. Be aware that a registry is NEVER a substitute for personal preparedness. Even if the registry may be linked to first responders, assistance may not be available for hours or days after a disaster.

Contact your local emergency management agency to see if these services exist where you live or visit www.ready.gov/ to find links to government offices in your area. (Source)

In example the following are some Illinois State Vulnerable Population Registries

St Clair County Special Needs Registry
Kane County Special Needs Registry
McLean County Functional Needs Registry
Kankakee County Special Needs Registry
Knox County Special Needs Registry
Madison County Special Needs Registry
Will County Special Needs Registry

Tips for emergency managers and shelter operators:
Planning for diverse population in a disaster means working with a whole community approach.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions of your local emergency planning organizations or regional and national assisted living and care organizations.  A critical aspect of inclusive planning would be to include people with disabilities, leaders in the disability community, and disability support and advocacy organizations in all phases of emergency management- including planning. Some states have begun Special CERT teams for response to persons with access or functional needs.  An in depth  Guide for Emergency-Planners was developed by the National Organization on Disability/Emergency Preparedness and can be downloaded in PDF.

The FEMA Office of Disability Integration and Coordination website also has a lot of great preparedness resources for individuals, inclusive emergency management resources for communities, and tips and tools for effective communication with people with disabilities and access and functional needs  “Having an inclusive planning group is going to make any tool you use more effective by making it more likely that people in the disability community know about and understand the tool, bringing to light any potential barriers or complications, and adding knowledge of community resources that can enhance the effectiveness of that tool.” says Jessica Mitchell the Region V Disability Integration Specialist with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)   Some of the following organizations have committed to working on emergency preparedness and are in every state in the country.  They would be valuable contacts as well.

Tips for people with disabilities and functional needs:
 Strategies, Services, Devices, Tools and Techniques for people with access and functional needs.  Privacy is important to personal medical needs and care, but planning for assistance before, during and after emergency means making educated choices on what information you choose to share in order to be better prepared.   What should you include in your plan?

1.  Medicines including Durable medical equipment and Consumable medical supplies.  Make a list of medicines and contact information for your medical care team and pharmacies and keep it in your go-kit.
2.  Pre-register for key services, some power companies have registries for electricity dependent individuals, some counties have vulnerable population registries for individuals who need assistance with hurricane shutters or evacuation assistance.
4.  Plan for your Service Animal (See our tips for service animals)
5.  Assistive Technology – loss of assistive technology could severely impact mobility or ability to communicate, write down your names, model numbers and keep a list in your go-kit.
6.  Communications tools
7.  Accessible shelter/housing
8. Transportation needs
9. Inform your Support Network, Make arrangements, prior to an emergency, for your support network to immediately check on you after a disaster
10.  Pack go-kits for you and your service animal

Follow us in social media this week as we release information for vulnerable populations using hashtag #DAFN.


Animals in Disaster

Disaster Planning and Response for Service Animals

The Americans With Disability Act (ADA) defines a service animal as any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an person with a disability. If an animal meets this definition, it is considered a service animal under the ADA regardless of whether it has been licensed or certified by a state or local government. Service animals perform some of the functions and tasks that the individual with a disability cannot perform for themselves.Svcanimals

According to the University of Arizona, “0.9% of persons with disabilities are partnered with service dogs.” In 1990, Congress found that there were 43 million Americans with disabilities, suggesting there are approximately 387,000 service dogs across the US, according to the estimate provided at http://servicedogcentral.org/. This site is a great resource for learning more about service animals and includes guidelines for Australia, Canada, United Kingdom and United States

A distinction should be made between types of support animals. The ADA law refers specifically to assistance animals, also called “service animals.”

Types of support animals

Therapy dogs are working dogs. Therapy dogs and owners visit patients in hospitals, pediatric wards, assisted living residences, and hospice care programs.

Service animals work for their owners providing disability assistance, such as mobility and medic alert assistance. These animals include dogs for hearing- and vision-impaired individuals, assistance/alert dogs for people with autism and diabetes, and many others.

Working dogs support their handlers with a specific role, such as K-9 drug and bomb sniffing dogs and Search and Rescue dogs

About Service Animals

Vest Example courtesy www.vest

Vest Example

Guide dogs are only one type of service animal used by some individuals who are blind. There are also service animals that assist people with other kinds of disabilities in their day-to-day activities. Some examples include alerting individuals with hearing impairments to sounds, pulling wheelchairs, carrying and picking up things, assisting persons with mobility impairments with balance, and alerting persons to the onset of medical problems like heart problems, epilepsy or diabetes. According to the job needing to be done, any size or breed of dog (and some small horses) can be a service animal. They can range from Great Danes being used for balance work to Papillons being used for medical alert work. When fully trained, they are allowed to accompany the disabled person anywhere the person needs to go.

bonesThis autism service dog named Bones is practicing his search and rescue skills. His job is to find 10 year old Luke Wilson whenever he strays too far. Luke is now able to focus for longer periods and sleep in his own bed for the first time. His behavior has improved so much that he does not take medication anymore. His mom says it’s all because of Bones[1]. A trained service animal can cost over $20,000.

Back of CardTips for the public:

  1. Remember Service animals and their access to all public places and commercial carriers are protected under Federal Law.
  2. Do not touch the service animal, or the person it assists, without the owner’s permission.
  3. Do not make noises at the service animal. This action could distract the animal from performing its job.
  4. Do not feed the service animal. This could disrupt his/her schedule.
  5. Respect Privacy Do not feel offended if a person with a service animal does not wish to discuss the assistance their service animal provides.

Tips for the first responder

When transporting a patient with a service animal, every effort should be made to do so in a safe manner for the patient, the animal, and the crew members. If possible, the animal should be secured in some manner in order to prevent injury to either the animal or the crew during transport. Safe transport devices may include: crates, cages, specialty carriers, seatbelts, or passenger restraints using a specialized harness or seat belt attachment.

In certain situations it may not be possible for the animal to be transported with the patient. In that case, every effort should be made to ensure safe care and transportation of the animal by alternative means (see below). The Health and Human Services Office of Disability guidelines advises first responders – “If you have doubts, wait until you arrive at your destination and address the issue with the supervisor in charge.” EMS should notify the receiving facility of the presence of a service animal accompanying the patient.[2]

Under major disruptive conditions, the assistance dog may show signs of confusion and should be given time to settle down. Learn more at http://www.iaadp.org/disaster.html. Emergency management partners, including Fire, Police and EMTs, should consider issuing a clear policy for service animals and alternative modes of transportation. New York State published thier policy in 2007.[3]

Alternative modes of transportation can include:

1. Animal control (a service animal should never be confined with another animal)
2. Police
3. Fire can transport, if available (and will not be forced to leave their zone)
4. A friend, neighbor, or relative.
5. The EMS supervisor can transport the animal in the fast response vehicle.

Regardless of who transports the animal (if not the ambulance), please make a note regarding the person to whom care of the animal was released in the EMS paperwork. If possible, have the police note it as well. A lost service animal is a traumatic experience for a disabled person and can be costly to replace.

Tips for the service dog owner

Plan for a disaster in advance. Be familiar with your local service shelter options. In some states, you can even register to be on a ‘vulnerable populations’[5] list that will identify your special servicedog1needs in advance of disaster. Pack a disaster “go-kit” specifically for your service animal’s needs as well as your own. Make an abbreviated list of your medical needs and your animal’s needs and keep it in your animal’s service vest. Include a photo of your animal in this kit. If you use a vest, pack a spare vest in the kit as well. The ADA does not require assistance dogs to wear identifying equipment in public, but many do, which is helpful for business owners and the public in general so they can plan and act accordingly to your needs. Separation from your animal is the last thing you need to deal with in the face of disaster. Invest in a tag which carries his call name and the veterinary’s phone number on the tag, Petsmart and HotDog Collars offer some solutions. Investigate microchipping as a solution for reuniting with your service animal. If your pet has a microchip, the number of that microchip must be directly linked to you. This is done by enrolling it in a recovery service. 51d9XYRhOlL._SL500_AA300_

Include a sticker on your vehicle or window of your home to alert emergency service personnel. Here are a few examples

Humanity Road Animals in Disaster Team works to support the safety and care of animals impacted by disaster you can support them through the following means; sign up to be a virtual volunteer from home read more Animals in Disaster store (proceeds go to Humanity Road) Donate directly and Like them in Facebook & RT them in Twitter

Here are some helpful websites for additional resources, products & Info
International Association of Assistance Dog Partners http://www.iaadp.org/disaster.html
Service Dog Central http://servicedogcentral.org/content/
Paws for Ability http://4pawsforability.org/autism-assistance-dog/
Servicedoghouse.com http://yhst-35696697813149.stores.yahoo.net/index.html
Americans with Disability Act http://www.ada.gov/pubs/ada.htm

[1] http://www.cbs42.com/content/localnews/story/Autism-service-animals/thkHv5e7a0G5QV22T66LRA.cspx

[2] http://www.health.ny.gov/professionals/ems/policy/07-01.htm

[3] http://www.iaadp.org/disaster.html

[4] http://www.iaadp.org/disaster.html

[5] http://www.broward.org/registry/Pages/Default.aspx