Emergency Preparedness

January 26, 2016


In emergencies or disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, chemical spills and terrorist attacks, individuals with disabilities and other potentially vulnerable populations may face barriers to accessing appropriate emergency services. Some may have mobility issues, while others may be visually or hearing impaired, or have intellectual disabilities that make it difficult to receive or follow emergency instructions.

Local governments, first responders, emergency managers, and public health planners may face challenges providing efficient emergency services that are compliant with local, state and federal laws and emergency planning guidelines. Health care organizations may seek support to continue providing high-quality health care in emergencies or disasters.


Historically, individuals with disabilities have not been included in emergency plans and the planning process, and emergency responders have received little training about the needs of individuals with disabilities. 


We develop inclusive emergency planning solutions aimed at increasing equal access to emergency services, enhancing legal compliance, and promoting efficient emergency response and community resilience. Our clients include individuals with disabilities, their families and disability organizations, local governments, emergency managers and first response organizations, public health planners and health care organizations.

Our team provides preparedness training to:

  • Staff of disability organizations and the individuals they serve

  • Self-advocates with intellectual disabilities

  • Parents of children with disabilities and special health care needs

We provide technical support to disability provider agencies for organizational, staff, and stakeholder preparedness.

We train public health and health care provider personnel about one-on-one interactions with individuals with disabilities, inclusive community emergency planning and inclusive organizational emergency planning. We provide technical support for emergency plan gap analysis and improvement, develop planning tools and give advice about the development and implementation of inclusive emergency drills.


We launched our Emergency Preparedness and Response Initiative in 2005 to advance whole-community planning and response, and promote community resilience. We have worked with disability community representatives, first responders, emergency managers, public health planners and local government representatives to develop a comprehensive education program on emergency planning and response for and with individuals with disabilities.

We have provided technical support in 21 communities and one region for Community Stakeholder Meetings, which are held to identify and assess gaps in local emergency plans and response practices. All of the communities participating in the Community Stakeholder Meetings successfully completed a gap analysis, identified at least five emergency planning gaps, and developed generally low-cost strategies to correct deficiencies. Training through the Community Stakeholder Meeting process is being implemented nationally with an online course.

Emergency Preparedness