SPECIAL NEEDS OR CIVIL RIGHTS: EVACUATION AND SHELTERING CONCERNS FOR THE FUNCTIONALLY AND DEVELOPMENTALLY IMPAIRED

R. Brittingham & T. Wachtendorf, Disaster Research Center, UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE, Newark, Delaware, United States

Abstract

Emergency management agencies in the United States are facing new challenges in planning for and responding to disasters. The term “special needs” was previously used in both the scholarly literature and by practitioners to describe the vast range of concerns those vulnerable to disaster might face. Alongside the elderly, the young, those of low income, those whose first language is other than the majority, and non-citizens (among many others), the term was also meant to include those with functional and developmental impairments (FDI). There is a growing recognition of the specific challenges individuals with FDI and their families face when disaster strikes. According to Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Craig Fugate, who spoke at the 2010 meeting of the International Association of Emergency Managers in San Antonio Texas, accommodating individuals with FDIs needs to move away from the provision of separate but equal sheltering and evacuation strategies. According to Fugate, segregation of those with FDI and their families is violation of civil rights. Inclusivity should be a fundamental principle of all disaster evacuation and sheltering plans.

Yet what are the needs and challenges facing those with FDI and their caregivers? How do we best foster this inclusivity when a disaster threatens our communities? With funding from the National Science Foundation, this research involves social science and civil engineering approaches in an examination of how best to increase safety during high category hurricane events. Our emphasis is on evacuation and sheltering in North Carolina. The focus of this presentation is on the specific concerns of those with FDI or those who care for them, and how these concerns influence their evacuation decision-making process, their evacuation strategies (including transportation arrangements), and the type of shelter they may seek during a hurricane. Findings are based on a large telephone survey of North Carolina households. Data collection is underway with analysis planned for summer 2011.

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