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Feeling Safe Being Safe is taking Hawaii by Storm

The author is a Principal Investigator at the Center on Disability Studies, University of Hawaii

National Severe Weather Preparedness Week is a reminder to appreciate the days of beautiful weather, check emergency kits, and recognize community leaders.

Preparing, reviewing, connecting with neighbors and leading by example are all part of a community approach that is blowing across the State of Hawaii like the trade winds after stifling heat. In communities throughout the state, individuals with a disability are taking the lead in emergency preparedness using the Feeling Safe Being Safe Training Curriculum.

When asked about this training Kathleen Tabata simply said, “It showed me how to do it right.”

I have been watching this tropical storm of change brewing in Hawaii for the last two years. As more and more individuals with disabilities and other access and functional needs become personally prepared for an emergency, many go on to train others and they seem to ‘get it’.

Feeling Safe Being Safe is a ‘train-the-trainer’ approach for sharing personal preparedness information. All of the trainers are individuals with a disability. To become a trainer, each person must themselves be prepared, and then learn how to share the preparedness materials with others.

If you are wondering why people become trainers, Kathy Chang will tell you, “It feels good; training other people and telling them about Feeling Safe, Being Safe.”

These winds of change began to blow in California with the help of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the California Department of Developmental Services. Here in Hawaii they have reached gale force speed thanks to funding from the Federal Administration for Developmental Disabilities, and Department of Health -Developmental Disability Division. We’ve also received encouragement from FEMA, state and county agencies and local service providers.

As the principle investigator of the Emergency Preparedness System of Support, I have enjoyed sitting in on these trainings and watching as individuals with disabilities change the way whole communities think about preparedness. The Feeling Safe Being Safe trainers break down all the barriers with an attitude of “I can, and so can you” and an enthusiasm that comes from knowing how it feels to be safe and feel safe.

Bathey Fong, a trainer on Oahu said, “People are shocked when they find out that I am their trainer. They didn’t know that we, the self advocates teach them. They thought it was ‘normal people’ and that we couldn’t do it, but they see us training them and realize we can do it and we are like them.”

The Feeling Safe Being Safe trainers are systematically teaching members of our communities to be assets and not liabilities, in community preparedness. When community capacity is built by strengthening all members, a truly resilient community begins to emerge. When community preparedness is approached from a perspective of empowerment rather than fear, the winds of change can reach hurricane force.

Feeling Safe Being Safe trainers have gone on to serve on community councils, present at conferences, host webinars and teach first responders about their needs. One of these trainers is Nicole Kelley and she summarized her job saying, “We helped our team, each other. We trained the Easter Seals O’hana (family) group and our classmates, we trained the people in Washington D.C. and they came up and said ‘good job!’”

To the Feeling Safe Being Safe Trainers, DHS, FEMA, ADD and local partner agencies who all support them – in a true community effort – ‘good job’ and Mahalo!

Last Updated: 
06/16/2012 - 12:37

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