MSCOD Emergency Preparedness Position Paper
The Minnesota State Council on Disability (MSCOD) collaborates, advocates, advises and provides information to expand opportunities, improve the quality of life and empower all persons with disabilities. By statute, MSCOD advises and aids the governor, legislature, state agencies, and the general public on services, programs and legislation pertaining to persons with a disability. MSCOD works closely with constituents to identify issues, craft language, educate policymakers, and pass laws that have a meaningful, positive impact on the disability community.
Disability affects approximately 20 percent of the population in the United States, which means nearly one in five people have one or more disabilities. The incidence of disability will increase as our society ages, which calls for increasing needs for emergency preparedness for people with disabilities.
After the Katrina hurricane, emergency preparedness became one of the top priorities of federal, state and local government. However, these efforts have largely ignored the unique issues of people with disabilities. In 2006, the Department of Homeland Security conducted a national review of State Emergency Operations Plans and found that Minnesota scored 50% below the national average for inclusion of special needs populations, and scored 40% below the national average in incorporating all modes of transportation provisions for evacuation plans.
As a significant part of the citizenry, it is critical that the unique issues of our disabled population be incorporated into each and every emergency management plan developed by state or local government. With this mission in mind, the Minnesota State Council on Disability (MSCOD) found itself in the indispensable role of advocating on disability issues in emergency preparedness, response and recovery plans. In addition MSCOD is working to educate planners, first responders and emergency managers on disability issues while educating the disability community on emergency preparedness issues.
Relevant legislative history
On July 22nd, 2004, President George W. Bush issued Executive Order 11347, ordering Federal, State, Local, and Tribal governments to consider in their emergency preparedness planning the needs of federal employees with disabilities and individuals with disabilities whom the government serves.
In Minnesota, the Governor assigns responsibilities to agencies based on the Minnesota Emergency Operations Plan and the State All-Hazard Mitigation Plan.
Existing system strengths
The existing system strengths laid a solid foundation for MSCOD to promote emergency preparedness. First of all, the federal government undertook key initiatives to strengthen planning for the security and safety of the disability community. Through years of work, MSCOD developed a strong relationship within the different segments of the disability community. MSCOD also built up a vast network with communities, organizations related to disabilities, and public and private agencies involved with emergency preparedness. The staff’s expertise and skills in education and training on emergency preparedness for persons with disabilities made MSCOD a leader among other organizations. MSCOD has maintained good partnerships with the chief agencies in emergency preparedness, including Minnesota Homeland Security and Emergency Management, the Metropolitan Emergency Managers’ Association and the Department of Health and the Department of Agriculture.
MSCOD mainly focuses on the following three areas, including personal preparedness, employers, and communities.
MSCOD promotes personal preparedness, which has always been one of the top priorities in emergency preparedness. People have limited knowledge of emergency preparedness because historically there has been little importance placed on it. Literature that addresses emergency preparedness rarely addresses disability issues and people with disabilities often have a false sense of security in that they would be a high priority for emergency responders. Therefore, it is essential for MSCOD to encourage individuals with disabilities to take responsibility for their own safety and well-being through training and education. MSCOD already posesses the expertise and educational materials for promoting personal preparedness. The great challenge for MSCOD is dedicating the staff time needed to advocate for personal preparedness, provide more training, and be more responsive to the individuals and communities who need the training.
MSCOD has provided training to many businesses to help them plan for emergencies, including identifying the unique needs of persons with disabilities, setting up the evacuation procedures and researching equipment options. However, because of the large number of employers in Minnesota, comparatively, the number of employers who have received training is relatively small. One of the main reasons is the misconception of employers that it is the responsibility of local authorities to develop an emergency plan for people with disabilities. Therefore, MSCOD strongly supports ongoing emergency preparedness training for employers throughout Minnesota.
MSCOD emphasizes that a successful plan for emergency preparation, response, and recovery should be developed at the local level, in every community throughout Minnesota. By holding conferences, meeting with local leaders and disability organizations, and distributing relevant disability related materials, MSCOD has built partnerships throughout the State. However, this partnership needs to be strengthened and we need to reach more communities. We need a full time position dedicated to emergency management. Therefore, MSCOD supports increasing funds to achieve this goal.
- To provide training throughout the State for individuals with disabilities, employers and communities on emergency preparedness, response and recovery.
- To strengthen emergency preparedness, response and recovery efforts throughout the State by incorporating the unique issues of the disability community into written plans.
- To increase the State’s score on the State Emergency Operations Plan with regard to inclusion of special needs population and with regard to utilization of transportation modes in evacuation plans.
- Dedicate more MSCOD agency resources and staff time to this critical issue.
As we enter the 21st century, the population of people with disabilities throughout Minnesota will dramatically increase due to our aging society. Without adequate planning, training and resources, local communities, employers and the disability community itself will be unable to successfully respond to and recover from emergencies. It is our collective responsibility to ensure that the needs of our aging and disability community are reflected in our emergency plans and that adequate education and training is provided for the affected populations.
 16.7% of the American population were aged 60 and over in 2005. This is projected to be 26.4% by 2050