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National Council on Disability Calls for Federal Disability Recovery Plan in Response to Hurricane Katrina

National Council on Disability Calls for Federal Disability Recovery Plan in Response to Hurricane Katrina


September 2005


WASHINGTON—The National Council on Disability (NCD) expresses its deep concern for the tremendous loss of life and devastation caused in the southern part of the United States by Hurricane Katrina and urges the Federal Government to craft a strong coordinated Federal Disability Recovery Plan for the victims and survivors of the hurricane.


According to NCD chairperson Lex Frieden, “Current data indicates that people with disabilities are now most at risk in this situation—and will need recovery assistance for months or years. A disproportionate number of the Hurricane survivors are people with disabilities whose needs for basic necessities are compounded by chronic health conditions and functional impairments. Relief agencies must prioritize efforts and take special steps to address the unique and complex needs of this population.”


NCD’s 2005 report titled Saving Lives: Including People with Disabilities in Emergency Planning (http://www.ncd.gov/newsroom/publications/2005/publications.htm) recommends immediate federal changes in emergency planning for people with disabilities. NCD encourages Hurricane Katrina responders to follow the findings and recommendations in this timely report.


“Saving Lives: Including People with Disabilities in Emergency Planning, NCD’s 2005 report, provides an overview of steps the Federal Government should take to build a solid and resilient infrastructure that will enable the government to include the diverse populations of people with disabilities in emergency preparedness, disaster relief, and homeland security programs. This infrastructure would incorporate access to technology, physical plants, programs, and communications. It also would include procurement and emergency programs and services.”


“NCD commends the Administration and those in leadership positions for the issuance of the July 22, 2004, Executive Order on people with disabilities and emergency preparedness. In addition, NCD acknowledges the work of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in their efforts to ensure that Americans with disabilities are included in the developing infrastructure.”

“All too often in emergency situations the legitimate concerns of people with disabilities are overlooked or swept aside. In areas ranging from the accessibility of emergency information to the evacuation plans for high-rise buildings, great urgency surrounds the need for responding to the concerns of people with disabilities in all planning, preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation activities. The homeland security terrorist event of September 11, 2001, as well as the recent energy blackouts in the U.S. Northeast and Midwest and, more recently, the natural disaster hurricane events in Florida, the tsunami event of 2004, and this most recent event, Hurricane Katrina, underscore the need to pay attention to the concerns raised in this report, Frieden said.”


The decisions the Federal Government makes, the priority it accords to civil rights, and the methods it adopts to ensure uniformity in the ways agencies handle their disability-related responsibilities are likely to be established in the early days of an emergency situation and be difficult to change if not set on the right course at the outset. By way of this report, NCD offers advice to assist the Federal Government in establishing policies and practices in these areas. This report provides examples of community efforts with respect to people with disabilities, but by no means does it provide a comprehensive treatment of the emergency preparedness, disaster relief, or homeland security program efforts by state and local governments.


Please visit https://disasterhelp.gov/portal/jhtml/index.jhtml, the Federal Government’s Web portal for disaster information and help.


For more information, contact Mark Quigley at 202-272-2008.


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Mark S. Quigley

Director of Communications

National Council on Disability

1331 F Street, NW, Suite 850

Washington, DC 20004