Pacific ADA Center News

City Of Phoenix Makes Evacuation Plans for People with Disabilities

For the past several months, the City of Phoenix has been working on its emergency operations plan, specifically focusing on people with disabilities also known as the "access and functional needs" community.

According to the U.S. Census, around 10 percent of Maricopa County's population has a disability. It's a diverse and often overlooked population where a one-size-fits-all approach to disaster planning can lead to deadly consequences. Once adopted, this plan will be one of the most comprehensive in the nation.

What happened during disasters like Katrina and Hurricane Sandy and on 9/11 is why the City of Phoenix is drafting an emergency plan for the access and functional needs community.

Phoenix Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management Kevin Kalkbrenner is in charge of drafting the plan. Part of his job involves engaging stakeholders like Ray Morris with Dads 4 Special Kids to hash out the details at meetings like one held late last month.

"I have a son with autism and cognitive delay," said Morris. "I have to create a healthy environment for him that he can be successful now I have to duplicate that environment in an emergency or disaster what are the things Zachary needs to live as independently as he can regardless of emergency or not."

What Zachary needs is support, understanding, a quiet environment, and his medication.

Besides talking to stakeholders, the city has contracted with a company called BCFS, a non-profit emergency management organization. Kari Tatro is with BCFS. She characterized the purpose of her organization as: "We want to come behind you and say, 'How can we support you to do what you do during disasters and make sure you have continuity of service during that time, too?'"

Tatro and her team are tasked with ensuring the city can handle mass care, transportation, evacuation, sheltering and communication.

During the two hour meeting, stakeholders posed questions and raised concerns. Notes were taken and promises were made to follow up. For Morris, the meeting was a success.

"The desire, compassion to work together, there's a willingness to understand what the disability community, who makes up the disability community and understand the diversity of community," said Morris.

Still, even the best laid plans can go awry. Kalkbrenner knows this. So does Morris.

The city will continue to meet and refine the plan over the next 12 to 18 months. Kalkbrenner hopes to exercise the entire plan by the spring of 2017.

original article from Kathy Ritchie at KJZZ.org