According to Glen W. White, PhD, Director of the Research and Training Center on Independent Living at the University of Kansas, ďA common theme emerging from 9/11 is there are virtually no empirical data on the safe and efficient evacuation of persons with disabilities in disaster planning." The media heightened our awareness of this problem from the reports of many individuals with disabilities trapped in the World Trade Center Towers during the 9/11 disaster. While such acts of terrorism are rare, other catastrophic events, such as floods, tornados, hurricanes, and fires are more frequently experienced across this nation and can lead to tragic results.
Disaster preparedness is facing many new challenges with the advent of terrorism, and the changes to the environment and our demographics. For instance, more and more older Americans and persons with disabilities are in the workplace and community, due to new laws, such as Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the New Freedom Initiative (NFI). Typically, disaster preparedness and emergency response systems are designed for non-disabled persons, using typical escape or rescue procedures, such as walking or running, that are not appropriate for assisting persons with mobility impairments. Nor have many of these plans specifically addressed the transition needs back to pre-disaster conditions that are required for persons with mobility impairments.
At the nationally known University of Kansas, Research and Training Center on Independent Living, under the direction of Glen W. White, PhD, Principal Investigator, and Michael H. Fox, ScD, Co-Investigator, a three year grant was awarded by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention through the Association for Prevention, Teaching and Research. This first of its kind research project is titled, Nobody Left Behind (NLB): Disaster Preparedness for Persons with Mobility Impairments. The focus of this empirical study is on 30 county level or equivalent emergency management sites across the United States that had experienced a recent disaster. The researchers aimed to determine the readiness of these sites to assist persons with mobility impairments during disasters. Another component of the NLB study is a qualitative narrative analysis derived from an on-line survey of persons with mobility impairments who had survived a disaster or emergency. This survey explored what was deemed helpful for survival, difficulties experienced during and after the disaster, lessons learned, and future directions for emergency management from the consumer perspective.
Additional details about the NLB project and pertinent issues in the field of emergency management for persons with mobility impairments and other disabilities are provided throughout this official Nobody Left Behind website.
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