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The congregations of America are more aware of the need to prepare for a human-made or natural disaster than they were prior to September 11, 2001. Through television and other media, the nation is powerfully and graphically alerted to hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, blizzards, earthquakes, terrorist attacks and wildfires, as well as the resulting destruction, homelessness, injury and death that follow. Sadly, we have learned that children and adults with disabilities and their families are more vulnerable during and after these disasters.
People, with and without disabilities, can reduce the impact of disaster by taking precautionary measures to prepare in case an event occurs. In November 2001, the National Organization on Disability (N.O.D.) launched the Emergency Preparedness Initiative (EPI), a program to address the special concerns of the nation’s disability community and to ensure that people with all types of disabilities are included in emergency planning at all levels (the Web site of this award-winning program is www.nod.org/emergency). EPI is the sister program of N.O.D.’s Religion and Disability Program (R&DP), which works with congregations, national faith groups, and seminaries (the R&DP Web site is at www.nod.org/religion).
Following the terrorist attacks in the fall of 2001 and the recent hurricanes in the Gulf Region, congregations have fulfilled their scriptural mandate to offer hospitality and help those in need. People of all faiths have contributed millions of dollars and countless hours assisting older adults and people with disabilities. Congregations of all faiths have provided transportation, medical care, housing, food, clothing and tutoring to Americans with physical, sensory, psychiatric and intellectual disabilities. People of faith from America’s congregations continue to make a critical difference in disaster recovery.There are a number of specific steps a congregation can take to assist people with disabilities to prepare for a disaster, and to prepare its faith community to assist people with disabilities during a disaster. They include the following:
Also, consult EPI’s Interactive Map of Disability and Emergency Preparedness Resources (www.nod.org/EPIResources/interactive_map.html). The map houses information on your regional branch of FEMA, your state Citizen Corps and American Red Cross Chapters, as well as links to your state and local Emergency Management Agencies, and is a good place to start gathering the information most useful to you.This type of coordination and planning must be very specific. For example, during and after a disaster, one congregation could provide the services of two sign-language interpreters and store extra hearing aid batteries; another congregation, which has a religious education program for children with mild to severe disabilities, could offer the services of the professionals who staff the program; another congregation, which operates a shelter for people without homes, could offer its wheelchair accessible restroom and shower; another congregation with a parish nurse might offer her services; and a congregation that provides meals could store the equipment that children and adults with disabilities might need, including flexible straws, adaptive silverware and dishes, sodium and sugar-free snacks and beverages, gluten-free products and tables that can easily be raised to accommodate a wheelchair user.
Adapted and reprinted with permission from “Congregations Who Care – Prepare,” published by the National Organization on Disability (N.O.D.). Retrieved June 6, 2007 from www.nod.org/congregationsprepare.
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Retrieved from the Web site of the Institute on Community Integration, University of Minnesota (http://ici.umn.edu/products/impact/201/default.html). Citation: Moseley, C., Salmi, P., Johnstone, C. & Gaylord, V. (Eds.). (Spring/Summer 2007). Impact: Feature Issue on Disaster Preparedness and People with Disabilities, 20(1). [Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, Institute on Community Integration].
The PDF version of this Impact, with photos and graphics, is also online at http://ici.umn.edu/products/impact/201/201.pdf.
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