ESSEX JUNCTION, Vt. – When it comes to hurricanes, many people think Vermont is not in danger. But last August, as Hurricane Irene downgraded to tropical storm status, Vermont suffered a major blow that severely tested the state’s resources.
At the 2012 National Hurricane Conference in Orlando from March 26 – 29, Vermont will be in the spotlight for its response to Tropical Storm Irene and the state’s focus on meeting the needs of residents with disabilities and those with access or functional needs who took refuge in shelters.
Presenters will be Robert Schell, Chief of Field Operations for Vermont Emergency Management and Kate McCarthy-Barnett, Disability Integration Specialist for the Boston office of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The American Red Cross will also be featured in the presentation.
To help entire communities recover from Tropical Storm Irene, FEMA and VEM began working together to ensure that people with disabilities and those with access or functional needs were able to fully participate in disaster recovery programs.
Within two days of the storm, the Vermont Interagency Emergency Response Committee was formed and included representatives from FEMA, VEM and the Red Cross along with over 40 disability organizations and agencies. The committee members joined daily conference calls and collaborated on the needs of the community and shared local resources.
Tropical Storm Irene was the first large©\scale disaster in Vermont since the development of the Functional Needs Support Services (FNSS) guidance. It provided an opportunity to implement FNSS in a real-world response and recovery situation for individuals with disabilities. A Sheltering Team integrated partners and other specialized community leaders in planning to accommodate individuals with access and functional needs in general population shelters.
Pre©\event planning and creative modifications allowed for integration in specialized shelters where disabled populations are often isolated. The team worked directly with people with functional and access needs within the shelters, ensuring they had a voice in identifying appropriate services and information formats.
“Vermont made great progress in inclusive planning for people with access and functional needs in shelters set up in affected communities,” said Vermont Emergency Management Director Joe Flynn. “We are honored to bring Vermont’s story to this national workshop.”
To make sure the whole community is engaged, FEMA’s McCarthy-Barnett has been in Vermont since the storm to not only advise FEMA and state leadership on the issues, but also to engage local and state community leadership as partners. She was the keynote speaker and a participant in Vermont’s annual Disabilities Awareness Day activities on March 21.
“The collaborations that took place after Irene between state, federal and the disability community enhanced the delivery of services to individuals with disabilities and those with access and functional needs,” said McCarthy-Barnett. “That has continued into the long-term recovery phase.”
Considerations in reaching the target population include:
- Physical needs: Shelters, meetings, disaster recovery centers and other p...