Struggle to rescue people with disabilities from forest fires
Because of this, the Red Cross has focused on investing in long-term infrastructure. Such as backup solar power, disaster training and backup battery installation for people who depend on electricity for their medical equipment in hard-to-reach places like Northern California, said Brad Keiserman, vice president of disaster operations and logistics at the organization.
Of 2,059 community health centers across California, an analysis by Direct Relief, a non-profit humanitarian organization, shows that 61 percent lack backup power. In Butte County, there is no community health center with backup power, the analysis found.
The challenge of evacuating and caring for people with disabilities is not new. A significant number of the more than 1,800 people who died during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 were aged and disabled.
In response, Congress passed a law in 2006 requiring the Federal Emergency Management Agency to appoint a disability coordinator and develop guidelines to better serve people with disabilities. However, an accountability report published in 2019 revealed that the agency has failed to provide comprehensive disability training to its employees. And there was no mention of people with disabilities in the agency’s emergency preparedness report that year.
A spokeswoman for FEMA, Jacqueline Rothenberg, said that under President Biden, the agency was focused on strengthening its relationship with disability organizations as a way of improving preparedness.
Similarly, California is encouraging state officials to meet regularly with disability organizations, according to Vance Taylor, chief of the Office of Access and Functional Needs at the state’s emergency services agency. Such organizations can offer expertise and support during evacuation – including providing power wheelchairs, motorized lifts, ventilators or other supplies..
As a result of guidance from local disability organizations, Plumas County has established an emergency transportation service for anyone who is disabled or who otherwise cannot drive, and Butte County now maintains a list of people who need help in distress. May be required and sends law enforcement deputies to their homes during the evacuation.
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