FEMA Disability Integration and Coordination March 2012 Quarterly Newsletter

April 11, 2012

?The Office of Disability Integration and Coordination Quarterly Newsletter
March 2012

FEMA Think Tank for March 2012 Focuses on Disability Topics
By: Marcie Roth, Office of Disability Integration and Coordination

Disasters can strike anywhere, anytime and can impact anyone, so everyone must be involved in emergency planning, mitigation, response, and recovery efforts. This is a message that FEMA’s senior leadership brings to the table at every opportunity. Deputy FEMA Administrator Richard Serino drove this point home during the Think Tank conference call in Atlanta at the Georgia Institute of Technology, March 22, 2012. Introducing the topic to an audience of over 30 community leaders in the room and more than 500 callers nationwide, he stressed the benefits of the call. “Talking with teachers, leaders in the access and functional needs community, non-profit and community organizers – all of which are the epitome of whole community – gives me, and everyone, a better understanding of the reality – on the ground,” Serino said.

Atlanta, Ga., March 22, 2012 -- FEMA Deputy Administrator Richard Serino opens the Think Tank conference call at the Georgia Tech Centergy Building in downtown Atlanta. Also pictured (L) Marcie Roth, FEMA Director of the Office of Disability Integration and Coordination and Andy Altizer (c), Georgia Tech Director of Emergency Preparedness.

Topics discussed during the call included a focus on the importance of having access to electrical power and alternatives during disasters, especially for individuals with disabilities and other types of access and functional needs. Carolyn Phillips, program director at Georgia’s Pass It On Center, Tools for Life, the state’s Assistive Technology Act Program, noted that as smartphones have many different types of alternating current electrical power adapters, medical and assistive devices also have the same variability. To demonstrate this point, Liz Persaud, Phillips’s colleague from Tools for Life, brought the chargers she’d need to keep her equipment fully functional. It required a suitcase to carry all of the items and weighed over 30 pounds. Atlanta, Ga., March 22, 2012 -- At the Think Tank conference call at the Georgia Tech Centergy Building in downtown Atlanta, FEMA Deputy Administrator Richard Serino discusses powering durable medical equipment following disasters with Carolyn Phillips, Director of The Pass it On Center.

Other speakers noted that individuals need to proactively plan for major power losses by including alternate sources of power such as solar power or generators. “We need to think more creatively about power and how we convert power for people with access and functional needs,” said Phillips. She also stressed the need for including power access issues in drills and assessing those outcomes in after-action reports. Deputy Administrator Serino then introduced Dr. Helena Mitchell, project director of the Wireless Emergency Communications project at Georgia Institute of Technology, to discuss the next Think Tank topic. Serino reminded participants that “FEMA needs to use the best technology available to communicate with disaster survivors and those with disabilities and access and functional needs.” He also noted that the Emergency Alert System test held in November of 2011 revealed several areas of improvement necessary for modernizing our national alerting systems, including problems with speed of the content and message accessibility. As FEMA develops the next-generation system, lessons from the test and continued input from our partners from the disability community will be applied to ensure a more accessible experience for everyone.

In her remarks, Dr. Mitchell noted that the explosion of devices and software platforms in the market gives wireless manufacturers and developers “a perfect opportunity for [them] to involve end users in creating new devices that will have accessible features at the front end.” Dr. Mitchell also noted with the explosion of social media, 65% of all Americans and 63% of those with disabilities use platforms like Facebook and Twitter, emergency managers have begun looking at those systems for enhancing the delivery of emergency alerts. As I mentioned during the conversation, “when people have access to emergency alerts, they can actively participate in preparedness efforts. This, in turn, optimizes emergency response resources for individuals who truly need assistance.” During the event, folks on Twitter joined the conversation with over 100 tweets using the hashtag #FEMAThinkTank:

Everyone should have access to emergency alerts – @mkelly007

Incorporating social media into emergency communications systems – @CACPGT

Serino closed the session by saying, “Community is a crucial part of all preparedness plans. It requires effort from the whole community to get through a disaster.” He also encouraged people to continue participating in the Think Tank, sharing and discussing the ideas posted. A full transcript of the event will be posted at www.fema.gov/thinktank shortly.
Have an idea to share? Head over to http://fema.ideascale.com and join the conversation!

An International Look at Disasters and Disability: Shafallah 2012
Message from Director Marcie Roth

In September of 2011, FEMA was proud to host “Getting Real II: Promising Practices in Inclusive Emergency Management for the Whole Community”. This conference put a well-deserved spotlight on inclusive programs and efforts throughout the country that build better-prepared communities and populations.

However, these inclusive practices are not solely limited to the United States. From January 22nd to 24th, I had the privilege of being invited to represent FEMA at the Fifth International Shafallah Forum in Doha, Qatar. The Shafallah Forum is sponsored by Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, the wife of His Highness, the Emir of Qatar and focuses on different topics impacting the global disability community each year.

The focus of this year’s forum was “Crisis, Conflict and Disability: Ensuring Equality" and was co-chaired by Cherie Blair, wife of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and drew participants from the global community, including Turkey, Netherlands, Jordan, Poland and Finland.
Charlotte McClain-Nhlapo. USAID and Susan Sygal, Mobility International
International Shafallah Forum 2012

“In all wars and disasters, it is persons with disabilities that are first to die; persons with disabilities that are first to get disease and infection; and it is persons with disabilities who are the last to get resources and medicines when they are handed out. They are treated as the bottom of the pile”.

For millions in the world–in refugee camps, in war zones, in the path of natural disaster–disability is not solely a developmental phenomenon.

The 5th International Shafallah Forum highlighted aspects of humanitarian crises from preparedness to response to recovery and rebuilding for persons with disabilities. The Forum focused on Article 11 (Situations of Risk and Humanitarian Emergencies) of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, with a focus on the role of countries that are party to the Convention and the necessary measures the international community must take to ensure the protection and safety of persons with disabilities during situations of armed conflict, humanitarian emergencies, and natural disasters.
Among the Forum’s centerpieces was a unique gathering of First Ladies from thirteen countries, celebrity supporters, media, investors, and disaster planners/humanitarian relief organizations who discussed the latest developments in inclusive emergency planning and their centrality to responding to and mitigating harm from emergency situations.

In my presentation, moderated by Sara Sidner, International Correspondent for CNN, I discussed how FEMA is actively engaging the whole community including individuals with disabilities and those with access and functional needs. “With over one billion people with disabilities and many more with access and functional needs across the globe and a never ending (and seemingly increasing) number of disasters each year, people with disabilities are very likely to be impacted every time there is a disaster, natural or man-made. Typically, people with disabilities are considered liabilities in a disaster, and often described as being vulnerable, at risk or having “special” needs. In fact, people are most at-risk when they don’t prepare for emergencies and communities that fail to include people with disabilities and others with access and functional needs are the most vulnerable to the harsh impact of disasters.

In the United States, many lessons were learned after Hurricane Katrina, and the US Department of Homeland Security Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has led the way in changing how individuals and communities plan for disasters. No longer considered liabilities, people with disabilities and families are being fully integrated into all aspects of planning for disasters, becoming assets by bringing their knowledge and experience to benefit the whole community.

In this second newsletter from the Office of Disability Integration and Coordination, we’re covering the recent Think Tank call focusing on disability issues and also reminding folks that the newly-announced FEMACorps is a great way to introduce young adults with disabilities to the field of emergency management.

We’re also happy to share wonderful news of Venus Majeski’s Champions of Change award from the White House for her work in disaster preparedness for individuals with disabilities in Latino communities.

We’re also announcing FEMA’s role in leading the Interagency Coordinating Council on Emergency Preparedness and Individuals with Disabilities. Finally, Randy Wagoner, a member of ODIC’s team wrote two articles for this newsletter discussing his first deployment and ODIC’s contribution to the Combined Federal Campaign.

As always, thank you for everything you do for your community and for being part of the team.

Champions of Change: A True Advocate for Disability Inclusive Emergency Preparedness
By: Kareem Dale, Special Assistant to the President for Disability Policy

Note: this article was posted on the White House blog on January 19, 2012

Today, the White House highlights 17 community leaders for their work to help prepare their communities for disasters and to ensure a more resilient nation. These men and women, who hail from all parts of the U.S., will be honored at our weekly Champions of Change ceremony at the White House. Each of them has demonstrated significant innovation and creativity in working to get their communities ready for the unexpected, and they have embraced the approach of involving and planning for the needs of all members of their communities in emergency preparedness and response.

One of these remarkable honorees is Venus D. Majeski from Edison, New Jersey. Venus Majeski serves as Director of Development & Community Relations for the New Jersey Institute for Disabilities, one of the largest not-for-profit agencies, serving more than 1,500 infants, children and adults with disabilities throughout New Jersey. Venus is a passionate advocate for persons with disabilities and continues to participate in and direct numerous advocacy projects. She is a member of the Middlesex County Commission for Persons with Disabilities and the New Jersey Emergency Management Association.

In addition to serving with the New Jersey Institute for Disabilities and her other advocacy work, Venus spearheaded the Alianza Emergency Preparedness Project Plus (AEPP-Plus) as Project Director. AEPP-Plus is designed to address the disaster readiness of people with access and functional needs who live in a culturally diverse, majority Hispanic/Latino, low income community, which has been underserved in all areas.

AEPP-Plus brings individuals to the table and to leadership positions in disaster readiness. The goal of AEPP-Plus is to integrate all individuals into their community's overall disaster readiness preparations, shifting attitudes and changing systems to ensure a truly responsive and embracing community.
Venus Majeski’s work as an advocate for people with disabilities is truly commendable and embodies this administration’s belief that preparedness and emergency coordination must involve all segments of the population, whether they are individuals with disabilities, young children, or older adults. We are both very proud and privileged to recognize Venus as one of this year’s “Champions of Change.”

A new opportunity for young adults (including individuals with disabilities) to gain valuable real-world experience

In March of 2012, FEMA announced a new partnership with the Corporation for National and Community Service and created FEMACorps.

The purpose of this new partnership is:
• Strengthening the Nation’s Disaster Response Capacity: The partnership will provide a trained and reliable resource dedicated to support disaster operations, while enhancing the entire emergency management workforce.
• Creating Pathways to Work for Young People: By providing training, experience, and educational opportunity, the partnership will prepare thousands of young people for careers in emergency management and related fields.
• Promoting an Ethos of National Service: The partnership will strengthen our nation’s culture of service and civic engagement by mobilizing corps members and community volunteers to provide critical disaster services.
• Modernizing Government Operations to Improve Performance: By working together, CNCS and FEMA will advance the President’s management goals of working across government, managing across sectors, and promoting efficiency.

FEMACorps will draw on the CNCS’s long and proud history of including young adults with disabilities. ODIC encourages young adults with disabilities between the ages of 18-24 to apply. For more information, visit our FEMACorps page.
FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate speaks with AmeriCorps volunteers following the announcement of FEMA Corps, a partnership between Corporation for National and Community Service and FEMA.

FEMA Takes Leadership of Coordinating Disability Emergency Preparedness for the US Government
By Marcie Roth, Director, Office of Disability Integration and Coordination

In the wake of the events of September 11, 2001, there has been a renewed and sustained focus on making sure people with disabilities and other types of access and functional needs are prepared and included in the emergency planning process. In response, on July of 2004, President George W. Bush issued Executive Order 13347 to create the Interagency Coordinating Council on Emergency Preparedness and Individuals with Disabilities (ICC) with the purpose of ensuring that the federal government supports the safety and security of people with disabilities in disaster situations.

On January 4, 2012, Secretary Janet Napolitano officially named the FEMA’s Administrator, Craig Fugate, to assume the role as the Chair of the ICC. As Craig often says, “Emergency management is a team effort”.
When he learned of his appointment as Chair of the ICC, he said, “We’re thrilled to be part of the team that is making such crucial efforts inclusive”. FEMA is committed to ensuring that our emergency managers and our partners plan for the “Whole Community” as they consider how to prepare for, respond to, and recover from disaster; remain commented to inclusive emergency planning, response and recovery efforts.

The Administrator’s commitment to disability inclusive planning is evidenced through FEMA’s support for the Office of Disability Integration and Coordination, placing Regional Disability Integration Specialists in each of the ten FEMA’s Regions, providing guidance to grant recipients on how to incorporate disability inclusive solutions into their planning activities and collecting and sharing innovative and promising practices in disability inclusive emergency management planning through the annual “Getting Real” Conference, our website and training and technical assistance across the country .

Currently, the ICC membership includes 25 Executive Departments and agencies, large and small. Among the active participants are the Departments of Health and Human Services, Transportation, Justice, Labor, the FCC, OPM, the National Council on Disability and many others.
Collectively, these organizations create, support and share disability inclusive ideas, and co-produce an annual report to the President on the efforts of the ICC, including recommendations and highlighting promising practices in inclusive emergency preparedness and planning efforts. It is my pleasure to congratulate Administrator Fugate on his appointment, as the ICC Chair.

A FEMA Rookie’s First Deployment
By: Randy Wagoner, Disability Integration Specialist, ODIC

My excitement over my first deployment quickly turned to anxiety when I learned that the people-in-charge were actually going to take me up on my offer to head to Richmond, VA to support the Presidential Disaster Declaration that followed the 5.8 earthquake that struck the east coast in August 2011. After 30 years as a 9-1-1 dispatcher, I know how to get things people need. I always likened myself to Radar O’Reilly, the character on the TV show M*A*S*H: He could get you whatever you need, before you even knew that you needed it. That is very much what we did in the Dispatch Center and as it turns out, its often what you do while you are deployed.

I arrived at the Midlothian, VA Joint Field Office (JFO) checked in and was escorted to the External Affairs office. I got the 5-cent tour of what program was in what area and who was who. I might add that I had forgotten all of this important information before I even got back to my folding table. Note to other first timers, take LOTS of notes and draw a little map. It will save you a lot of headaches later.

I kept hearing that this was not a typical disaster. The event happened 5 months before I arrived. Some time had passed before FEMA’s programs like Individual Assistance (Ed. Note: Individual Assistance provides financial assistance and other services directly to eligible survivors) were included in the declarations. People were aware of the earthquake but didn’t realize that Individual Assistance was now available.

The focus of my job was developing a demographic report for the area, conducting outreach, and making sure accessible materials and equipment were readily available. At the Disaster Recovery Centers (DRC), it was rewarding to see people using the assistive technology communications equipment before we got through the door. I continued to hear stories from the field about how people really benefitted from the accessible materials and equipment that I helped set up.

I set up weekly conference calls with community groups and on the first call I connected with a person from an Area Agency on Aging that took the basic disaster recovery information FEMA provides and shared it with the 1500 seniors in their membership. These community connections are very important in helping survivors with disabilities and other types of access and functional needs receive the services FEMA offers.

After a month, I returned to my “peacetime” job as a Disability Integration Specialist in the Office of Disability Integration and Coordination and can say that after my first deployment, I made lots of mistakes, rolled over a few toes, but I did my job and helped survivors get the services they needed from FEMA and that’s a great feeling.