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Evacuation of People with Disabilities

NCJ Number
Journal of Security Education Volume: 1 Issue: 4 Dated: 2006 Pages: 107-118
Edward Steinfeld
Date Published
12 pages
In examining issues in the emergency evacuation from disaster areas of individuals with functional disabilities, this paper argues for universal design approaches that integrate provisions for disabled persons into all evacuation practices.
In the recent Katrina disaster, news reports indicated that many of those who were still in New Orleans when the hurricane hit had physical or mental impairments that limited their ability to leave the city without assistance. Those with hearing and communication impairments may find that the systems they routinely use to maintain communications are inoperative during emergencies, such as text telephone service or instant messaging. There are two basic strategies for addressing disabled individuals' needs during evacuation. One strategy is to provide specialized services that address the distinctive needs of those with particular disabilities. A second strategy is to develop universal design strategies for building systems that address a broader range of functional disabilities. This paper advocates a focus on the latter strategy. Universal design principles can ensure that a broad range of people with functional disabilities have means of communication, evacuation, and recovery in the event of a disaster. Methods of integrating the special needs of the disabled population into general disaster preparedness will provide communities with means and procedures for responding appropriately in meeting the needs of those less able to care for themselves prior to, during, and after a disaster. In this regard, there must be research and development that improves the rapid construction and deployment of accessible temporary housing. Also, urban-design guidelines and best-practice models must be developed that enable construction of larger numbers of accessible housing units to replace those destroyed by large-scale disasters. 8 references