Washington, D.C. December 5, 2019 – Earlier this week, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) released its 2019 National Preparedness Report. While the report is created to assess risk and gaps in preparedness for disasters for people living across the country, FEMA did not mention the word “disability” once in the report. Since 1 in 4 adults live with a disability, FEMA is essentially excluding one-quarter of the adult population from their disaster planning.
Following the release of the 2019 National Preparedness Report, Valerie Novack, Portlight Fellow with the Disability Justice Initiative at the Center for American Progress, released the following statement:
It’s often said that disasters don’t discriminate, but by excluding disabled people from its disaster preparedness report, FEMA certainly does. What’s more, by leaving out people with disabilities from disaster planning, FEMA is putting lives at risk. We know that people with disabilities are 2 to 4 times more likely to die or be critically injured during a disaster than people without disabilities. People with disabilities’ needs in a disaster are often overlooked, preventing them from evacuating in an emergency; accessing their life-sustaining medical equipment in a power outage; or receiving necessary, accessible emergency information from the media.
Since President Donald Trump took office in 2017, disabled people have been progressively excluded from FEMA’s National Preparedness Report and disaster planning in general. In 2017, the term “disability” was used 22 times in the report, and it was used 8 times in 2018. At the same time, Trump’s FEMA has reduced the number of disability integration advisers they employ and send to regions affected by a disaster, showing a complete lack of commitment to protecting the lives and well-being of the 25 percent of the U.S. adult population that lives with a disability. It is imperative for FEMA to live up to its mandate by ensuring adequate and inclusive support for disabled people who are affected by disasters. Lives are at stake.