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ANSI-HSSP releases workshop report on emergency preparedness for persons with disabilities

27 May 2009 24,352 views No Comment

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Homeland Security Standards Panel (HSSP) has published a Workshop Report on the need for standards-based solutions to assist individuals with disabilities and special needs during emergencies or natural disasters.

The report details the purpose, scope, findings and recommendations, and next steps of the ANSI-HSSP Workshop on Emergency Preparedness for Persons with Disabilities and Special Needs, held February 3–4, 2009, at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC.

“For millions of Americans who are elderly, have medical or cognitive conditions, or are visually, hearing, or mobility impaired, emergencies and natural disasters present a real challenge,” said S. Joe Bhatia, ANSI president and CEO. “These individuals and disability advocacy groups shared their perspectives and experiences with ANSI-HSSP Workshop participants, helping the standardization community to examine their unique needs and the overall effectiveness of preparation, notification, response, and evacuation activities.”

In a series of panels, roundtable discussions, and public input sessions, over 100 public and private sector participants discussed real-life examples of evacuation of people with disabilities from recent events, the strengths and weaknesses of existing standards, and priorities in creating standards for emergency preparedness.

The workshop attracted almost three times as many participants as expected – a clear indication of tremendous interest and need in this area. Above all, attendees stressed the importance of outreach and education to build support and awareness for individuals with disabilities and special needs. Standards developing organizations (SDOs), code developers, architects, engineers, building owners, and government representatives alike must have a comprehensive understanding of the needs of this community.

Key findings offered in the workshop report include:
* Providing for inclusion of the disabilities and special needs communities in the development of :
- Emergency/disaster exercises;
- Planning scenarios and response actions; and,
- Standards-based solutions.

* Educating the general public that disabilities affect all of our lives at some point either temporarily (because of an injury/surgery) or permanently because of age, disease, injury, etc.;

* Developing product standards for emergency evacuation devices and their usage; and,

* Improving post-emergency evacuation procedures and considerations for persons with disabilities and special needs.

The workshop report contains several next steps that ANSI-HSSP will take to move this effort forward. These steps include forming a task group that will engage the persons with disabilities community alongside SDOs to identify and prioritize specific needs, which include public education, enhanced federal policy, and transportation-related issues. This group will identify existing standards that have relevance, as well as those that should be expanded in scope or developed to address gap areas.

ANSI-HSSP will also work to develop input to code-developing organizations and state, local, and government agencies for use in their policy development procedures. In addition, the Panel will continue its proactive outreach efforts to assure that all key stakeholders are involved.

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