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Disaster Preparation for People with Disabilities

Taking into account the particular needs of people with disabilities is an important aspect of planning for a possible disaster and the aftermath of such an event. A proposed new ASTM International standard will provide planning guidance for helping those with disabilities in a disaster or emergency situation.

The proposed new standard, WK37628, Guide for Preparing for the Impact of Disasters/Emergencies on Local Residents/Visitors that Have Disabilities, is being developed by Subcommittee E54.02 on Emergency Preparedness, Training and Procedures, part of ASTM International Committee E54 on Homeland Security Applications. The task group is chaired by Don Dreyer, retired director of disability services, Nassau County, N.Y., and includes members of the Institute for Safety and Preparedness, Port Washington, N.Y.

According to Russell Salter, president of ERTIC LLC and vice chairman, E54.02, pre-event or event action planning has often overlooked areas such as pre-identification of locations of citizens with disabilities, their special transportation and evacuation needs, alert and notification for those who are blind or deaf and special provisions in shelters and medical needs.

“Through the planning and education process provided in this proposed standard, the first responder and the community will become more acutely aware of the concerns and issues of people with disabilities in planning for and surviving a disaster,” says Salter.

In addition to helping first responders become more aware of the needs of people with disabilities in disaster or emergency situations, Salter notes that WK37628 will be helpful to neighbors, friends and others who know people with disabilities and who may need some additional assistance during such events.

“WK37628 will provide a comprehensive structure for educating the layman and for involving him or her in helping both the response community and those with disabilities to better prepare for and survive disasters,” says Dreyer. Further, according to Jim Flemming, FEMA regional disability integration specialist, Region II N.Y., the proposed standard provides a comprehensive structure for communities to use in emergency planning for people with disabilities..

The task group welcomes participation from anyone interested in contributing to the development of WK37628 and future proposed standards on community disaster preparation. The task group is planning to create a resource library that is focused on assisting people with disabilities in emergency situations and is particularly interested in contributions from those with government, public administration and social services backgrounds.

CONTACT Technical Information: Russell Salter, ERTIC LLC • Fairfax, Va. • Phone: 571-438-8816 | ASTM Staff: Rick Lake • Phone: 610-832-9689 | Upcoming Meeting: June 25-27, 2012 • June Committee Week • San Diego, Calif.

This article appears in the issue of Standardization News.