On August 31, 2018, the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities (TCDD) hosted a Texas Emergency Preparedness Summit in Austin, Texas. During the summit, a diverse group of stakeholders from multiple states engaged in conversation and shared best practices related to supporting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) during and after a disaster. Over 40 people representing 20 organizations were in attendance.
The meeting started with a joint-presentation from the North Carolina Council on Developmental Disabilities (NCCDD) and North Carolina Emergency Management (NCEM). These two organizations collaborated to develop a comprehensive planning and response model that includes individuals with disabilities and is considered a best practice in the national DD network. Representatives from the Arkansas Governor’s Council on DD, the Oklahoma DD Council, and TCDD also shared information about initiatives their organizations are coordinating to ensure people with I/DD are supported in the event of a disaster or emergency.
Following the presentations, representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Texas Emergency Management Advisory Committee’s (TEMAC) Disability Task Force, Texas Health and Human Services, and other local nonprofit organizations and government agencies discussed resources and strategies that are currently in place to support people with I/DD. The group also discussed potential goals and activities designed to ensure people with I/DD are included in the planning, response, and recovery from natural and man-made disasters.
Lessons from North Carolina
Representatives from North Carolina detailed their Emergency Preparedness Initiative, which strategically included people with I/DD in disaster preparation and emergency response procedures and systems. Some of the initiative’s achievements included:
- Developing a program to distribute emergency preparedness information to individuals with I/DD through the community-based Meals on Wheels programs
- Partnering with voluntary groups to conduct simulations and exercises to ensure the appropriate response for people with I/DD or access and functional needs
- Partnering with 47 different agencies, programs, and organizations to promote comprehensive community planning and response
- Ordering Durable Medical Goods and Functional Needs Support items for the mass care trailers located across the state
- Creating a Disability Integration Specialist position within NCEM
For more information about the North Carolina initiative, including additional achievements, go here.
After Hurricane Harvey, TCDD and The Arc of Texas partnered with local entities to provide support to individuals with I/DD and their families who were affected by the storm. Funds for the Disaster Relief project were provided by:
- the Maryland DD Council,
- the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities,
- NCCDD, and
Also in Texas, the Resources for Disasters and Disability (REDDy) Directory was developed for people with disabilities and their families and served as a critical resource for those who experienced the effects of Hurricane Harvey. The REDDy Directory is a web-based guide for disability-related resources, services, and information that can be searched by zip code, key word, or resource type. The directory is a collaboration between the Center on Disability and Development at Texas A&M University, the Texas Center for Disability Studies at The University of Texas at Austin, the Association of University Centers on Disabilities, and the Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.
During the summit, participants shared important information and forged new connections. Below are some of the key takeaways:
- There is no need to “reinvent the wheel” – many resources already exist and can be adapted from state to state.
- It takes many people from multiple organizations to support individuals with functional and support needs to be impacted by a disaster.
- Communication and relationships are critical to success.
Participants agreed that conversations that focus on individuals with disabilities are important because they provide a space for personal stories, the discovery of existing resources, and to discuss opportunities for collaboration within Texas.