WASHINGTON - Today the Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) signed a memorandum of agreement that further strengthens their growing partnership to ensure that the access and functional needs of people with disabilities are incorporated into all aspects of planning for, responding to and recovering from disasters. Today's signing was hosted by the White House, and was attended by advocates from the disability and emergency management community, including disaster survivors, as well as national security and disability advisors for President Obama.
"FEMA is just one part of the emergency management team," said FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate. "The President and I are fully committed to addressing the needs of people with disabilities, in part by ensuring that Americans with disabilities - critical members of our team - have a seat at the table to make sure we are serving and protecting all of the members of our communities equally, before, during and after a disaster."
While FEMA has coordinated with the NDRN in the past, this agreement will strengthen their relationship to ensure the needs of people with disabilities, young children, seniors, and all members of the community are fully integrated into emergency planning efforts. Specifically, the agreement will ensure that advocates for the NDRN's 57 state and territory affiliates have access to FEMA disaster response offices, including workspace and logistical support, before, during and after a disaster, to be involved in policy decisions and coordinate directly with the entire emergency management team. This partnership will help FEMA leverage the resources of the entire community, including the resources the NDRN or other organizations can offer, to better meet the needs of the entire population impacted by a disaster.
"NDRN and our Disability Rights affiliates are a valuable source of knowledge to disaster officials at all levels, and will help ensure that individuals with disabilities can survive and recover from a disaster," said NDRN Executive Director Curt Decker.
Improving how FEMA plans for and incorporates the needs of people with disabilities into all aspects of disaster operations has been a top priority for the Obama administration and Administrator Fugate. In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina then-Senator Barack Obama introduced legislation that directed the Secretary of Homeland Security to ensure that each state provided comprehensive information regarding plans for evacuating individuals with disabilities and a variety of access and functional needs, and to plan for providing food, water, and shelter for evacuees with disabilities or access and functional needs.
Early last year, Administrator Fugate established the first-ever office within FEMA focused on this goal, the Office of Disability Integration and Coordination. In July 2010, FEMA signed a memorandum of agreement with the National Council on Independent Living which allows the 450 centers for independent living from across the country to access FEMA disaster recovery centers in order to better assist people with disabilities impacted by a disaster. In September 2010, FEMA hosted its first-ever "Getting Real" conference, which brought together stakeholders from the disability and emergency management communities to discuss how we can better partner together and integrate the needs of people with disabilities into our emergency planning. And in November 2010, FEMA announced new guidelines, the Functional Needs Support Services Guidance, on general population emergency sheltering for people with access and functional needs.
FEMA's mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to,...