A May 2019 GAO report found that hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria affected more than 28 million people in 2017. Hurricane survivors aged 65 and older and individuals with disabilities faced challenges evacuating to safe shelter, accessing medicine, and obtaining recovery assistance. Disasters pose a significant threat to vulnerable communities, particularly people with disabilities and older residents. The complex planning surrounding the preparation and response to disasters requires a coordinated effort between federal, tribal, territorial, state, local and non-governmental agencies. Disaster management requires that all levels of public and private life come together to address the diverse needs of everyone. Without dedicated training and resources for agencies and a place at the table for disability and aging leaders, 61 million individuals with disabilities and 48 million older adults continue to be left behind. Advanced planning and coordinated communication are necessary to address the needs of people with disabilities, older adults and those with diverse access needs as the nation prepares for and responds to national disasters.
United Spinal Association supports the REAADI for Disasters Act because it will establish a national Commission for Disability and Disasters to study the needs of individuals with disabilities, older adults and others with access and functional needs during emergency and disaster preparation and planning and throughout disaster, response and recovery and mitigation. Through the national commission, The REAADI for Disasters Act will support a cogent, well-designed emergency preparedness, disaster response and recovery system to ensure the safety, well-being, accessibility and dignity of people with disabilities, older adults and others with access and functional needs impacted by disasters.
A cost-effective and well- designed accessible system put into place before the next disaster will be far more effective, significantly improving community readiness, resilience and disaster recovery for people with disabilities and older people.
The REAADI for Disasters Act would
- Provide training and assistance to State, tribal and local health and social services agencies to implement effective disaster relief policies, programs and activities
- Administer grants to train staff of local services agencies on the specific needs of disability disaster preparedness
- Establish universal design and accessibility standards for achieving and maintaining equal access for older individuals and people with disabilities to all disaster relief services
- Protect community living options and access to support services after a disaster