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News of the Day: Experts Discuss How to Make Emergency Planning Fully Inclusive


Here at FEMA, we continually emphasize the importance of including and meeting the needs of the whole community. A principle foundation in emergency management is to continually take into account, understand, and support the needs of the entire community in the work that we do. It’s important for all of us to plan for the true, diverse makeup of our communities, and every day we make strides closer to achieving this goal.

With that in mind, we wanted to share the following story from the North Jersey/Bergen County Record, which captures how FEMA, through our disability integration specialists out in the field, work with all of our partners to ensure that we are fully including Americans with access and functional needs in all of our disaster planning, response and recovery efforts. Last week, Marcie Roth, Director of the Office of Disability Integration and Coordination, spoke about this work at a panel with other state and local emergency management partners:

"This is a priority. This is something we talk about on a regular basis," said Ridgewood Councilman Paul Aronsohn, who helped organize the event. "What we hope to do today is to really start a community-wide conversation, an opportunity to share lessons learned, things that work and don't work."

The community as a whole needs to come together to make sure everyone stays safe during a disaster, according to FEMA Regional Disability Integration Specialist James Flemming. Everyone has a stake in safety during times of emergency, and they need to work together to make the community as a whole better prepared, Flemming said.

"You know better than I what happened here when Hurricane Irene hit," he said. "That is not the time for people to hold onto their turf. That is not the time for people to say, 'Well that is not my job.’”

“FEMA, as well as other branches of government, are already reaching out to entire communities when making their preparations, according to Marcie Roth, director of FEMA's Office of Disability Integration and Coordination (OCDI). Modifying a plan then hanging it for people with disabilities will not adequately take into account everyone's needs, which can lead to dangerous situations in an emergency, including the death of residents who do not have the means for proper evacuation."

If we wait and plan for people with disabilities after we write the basic plan, we fail," Roth said, quoting FEMA administrator Craig Fugate. "It's time that children, people with disabilities, or any other segment of our communities who are traditionally underserved be more fully and consistently integrated into planning and preparedness on every level of government."

You can check out the full article here and encourage you to share it with others in your community. And if you have a good idea or approach for how we can be more inclusive, let us know. Leave a comment below or submit your idea to the FEMA Think Tank.

Last Updated: 
06/02/2017 - 09:29


This has been a big concern for me, but not only for me and other's but others with disabilities. NOW is the time...yes we cannot wait until we write the plan we must, again, act NOW. Why? Because anything devestating even can happen at anytime (any minute or second)...Thank you will be sending out to all that read and hopefully and video will follow. Some folks you send this do not like to read, some do...Again, thank you so much for this article...been waiting for something like this...

Although I appreciate the article, I must admit that I am a bit confused by it. You say that you want to meet the needs of the entire community, but yet I have literally seen both sides of this issue. I was a victim of abuse and I have had some "people of authority" who were willing to help me and yet I have had other "people of authority" who just made me feel like I was nothing more than "just a statistic!" It really makes it difficult for individuals like me to be able to trust "people of authority" if all they are going to do is just make me feel like a statistic anymore! I joined a Neighborhood Watch Committee in my area fairly recently because I felt that I had something to prove, but it doesn't help if our Neighborhood Watch Committee is not going to be taken seriously!