The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) acknowledged on Tuesday June 15 that it does not have a natural disaster plan in place for the disabled, and lacks the resources to do so in the future.
FEMA's "disaster committee" now consists of four employees with a budget of $150,000.
Reported by Andrew Seidman of McClatchy Newspapers, Marcie Roth—FEMA's senior advisor on disability issues and director of the Office of Disability Integration and Coordination—said that people with "special needs" comprise "almost 50 percent of the population."
Rep. Laura Richardson (D-Calif.), the panel chairman of a House subcommittee scrutinizing FEMA's preparedness, insists that a disaster "is not a matter of if; it's a matter of when."
Dana Amihere of Hearst Newspapers reported that Roth told legislators that when Hurricane Katrina hit, a quadriplegic woman named Benilda Caixeta was stuck in her apartment in the Lower 9th Ward. She waited three days for help to move her to the Superdome. Her body was found floating next to her wheelchair.
So FEMA and legislators both know that the disabled need a better plan for disaster assistance in place, but now what?
Funding to improve disaster preparedness and relief for the disabled would make a huge difference.
Unsure if those resources will come, Roth said it is important for disabled citizens to assume more personal responsibility in disaster preparedness. She explained that we all should participate in community-wide preparedness.