Evacuation & Transportation
When local evacuations become necessary, considerations for the whole community including accessible transportation options, medical needs, and keeping individuals connected with their families, personal care providers, essential equipment & technologies, and service animals are important. Proper planning is essential to a successful evacuation. Emergency evacuation plans should be viewed as living documents because communities change and integrating the needs of people with AFN is a dynamic process. Emergency managers with their local communities should regularly practice, review, revise, and update their plans to reflect changes in technology, personnel, and procedures.
Implementing a large-scale evacuation and meeting the transportation needs of people with access and functional needs is a major challenge – a challenge that can be met through an inclusive planning process beginning long before a major disaster prompts an evacuation. Planning should include everyone from transit providers and emergency managers to advocacy groups, licensed care facilities, first responders, hospitals, schools, nonprofit organizations and people with access and functional needs themselves.
Evacuation and Transportation Planning Guidance
The California Department of Transportation – “Transit Emergency Planning Guide” and the companion “Technical Appendices” is a synthesis of industry best-practices for transit emergency preparedness, prevention, response, and recovery.
Consider the following in your evacuation and transportation planning:
- Do plans identify how individuals with access and functional needs will be evacuated from their community
- What plans currently exist and are multiple entities dependent on the same provider(s)? Are protocols or memorandums of understanding/agreement (MOU/MOA)in place to avoid confusion when accessing and deploying assets?
- Do plans identify the transportation providers that will be responsible for and have the capacity to move individuals with access and functional needs from schools, neighborhoods, medical facilities, nursing facilities, etc.?
- Are disability and older adult transportation providers incorporated into evacuation plans (including the use of vehicles, drivers and dispatch)?
- Do drills/exercises incorporate first responders, accessible transportation providers and people with access and functional needs as victims?
Disasters, regardless of type, disproportionately affect individuals with access and functional needs – a term defined in Government Code section 8593.3, as individuals who have:
- Developmental, intellectual or physical disabilities
- Chronic conditions or injuries
- Limited English proficiency or who are non-English speaking
Or, individuals who are:
- Older adults, children, or pregnant
- Living in institutional settings
- Low-income, homeless, and/or transportation disadvantaged
This disproportionate impact results in higher incidents of fatalities, suffering, and personal hardship among historically “vulnerable” populations before, during, and following emergencies compared to individuals who do not have access or functional needs. To close this gap, and strive for increased safety, security, and independence among all members of the community, some local jurisdictions use voluntary disaster registries.
The idea of a voluntary disaster registry is simple – create a list of individuals who need additional support during emergencies which government can use to help when crisis strikes. However, the successful development, protection, adoption, and implementation of disaster registries is incredibly complex. While Cal OES advises against the use of voluntary disaster registries, jurisdictions should decide what works for their own unique situations.
It is important to note that registries can give registrants a false sense of confidence that because they are on a list, they will receive additional resources or priority response services during emergencies. This false assumption is dangerous and can lead to an overall decrease in personal disaster preparedness. In addition, as opt-in programs, these registries provide emergency managers with an incomplete picture of access and functional needs in their community. Further, such lists are difficult to keep current and it can be challenging to protect the personal identifying information that these lists contain.
Access and functional needs and at-risk populations can reach nearly to infinity (e.g. disabilities, languages, age). Many of these “classifications” can compound the sense of vulnerability for the potential transit client in an emergency. For example, people with access and functional needs may not want to draw attention to the fact that they live alone, making them even more vulnerable for predators.
Local jurisdictions are encouraged to leverage existing disability and older adults service systems, such as In-Home Supportive Services, Meals-on-Wheels and Paratransit, as opposed to creating new registries. Information can be gleaned from a variety of sources to provide the comprehensive information necessary to inform emergency planning and response.