Monday, September 03, 2007


Hawaii Civil Defense--still a do it yourself project?

by Larry Geller

I'm tired of being informed how many gallons of water I need to store in the event a storm is coming. I want to know not what I have to do for myself (I've got that info, thanks) but what the state is doing to ensure my safety and that of my family and neighbors.

I'm not sure what FEMA requires for the average citizen, but at least for persons with disabilities (which includes many elderly), there is a law.

FEMA has released a preliminary reference guide as part of meeting the requirements of Section 689 of the Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act of 2006, [enacted in Title V of P.L. 109-295, DHS Appropriations Act of 2007]. It's short. A copy of it is on the web: Accommodating Individuals With Disabilities In The Provision Of Disaster Mass Care, Housing, And Human Services.

So at least some people in Hawaii can now find out what the law requires. For persons with disability, the guide gives these requirements (in part):

Physical Access - Emergency programs, services, and activities must be provided at locations that all people can access, including people with disabilities.

People with disabilities should be able to enter and use emergency facilities and access the programs, services, and activities that are provided. Facilities typically required to be accessible include: parking, drop-off areas, entrances and exits, security screening areas, toilet rooms, bathing facilities, sleeping areas, dining facilities, areas where medical care or human services are provided, and paths of travel to and between these areas.

Equal Access - People with disabilities must be able to access and benefit from emergency programs, services, and activities equal to the general population.

Equal access applies to emergency preparedness, notification of emergencies, evacuation, transportation, communication, shelter, distribution of supplies, food, first aid, medical care, housing, and application for and distribution of benefits.

Effective Communication -People with disabilities must be given information comparable in content and detail to that given to the general public, as well as accessible, understandable, and timely.

Auxiliary aids and services may be needed to ensure effective communication. These may include pen and paper or sign language interpreters through on-site or video interpreting for individuals who are deaf, deaf-blind, hard of hearing or have speech impairments. Individuals who are blind, deaf-blind, have low vision, or have cognitive disabilities may need large print information or people to assist with reading and filling out forms.
In order to fulfill these requirements, there's going to have to be information given out, right? And sign language interpreters will have to be contracted, right? Where exactly is the large print information?

I wonder what info I can find out on this. There's a law, right? So I should be able to find something.

Looking at the state civil defense website, all that's there is another "do it yourself" project: Information for People with Special Needs
Special Needs May Also Equal Special Gifts

People with special needs can be a great resource in our community.

They have an understanding of what is required and needed when caring for others with special needs. Many also have specialized abilities that can be very useful in times of emergency. These people should be encouraged to volunteer with organization such as The American Red Cross, County Civil Defense Agencies and others. In times of Emergency, Neighbor helping Neighbor.
The page goes on to explain, natch, what people can do for themselves.

It's September 2007, two years after Katrina. When will we get something besides self-help info from our state civil defense?

Dear Legislators: (hint) Please check into this. There are laws out there that need to be implemented, and should be, for the safety of everyone in Hawaii. Thanks.


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