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Member Spotlight: Jim House, Coalition for Inclusive Emergency Planning

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Screenshot of Zoom meeting participants in the Coalition on Inclusive Emergency Planning tabletop exercise to ensure effective response and protocols are in place for access and functional needs of the whole community during a catastrophic disaster.

Meet one of our newest members, Jim House!  Jim is the Disability Integration Manager for The Coalition on Inclusive Emergency Planning (CIEP). He recently joined us in a question and answer (Q&A) session to share a bit about his work.

Q:  Tell us a little bit about the Coalition on Inclusive Emergency Planning (CIEP) 

A:  The Coalition on Inclusive Emergency Planning (CIEP) is a statewide, cross-disability, advisory group that works with state and local emergency management stakeholders to build disability accessibility and inclusion into all aspects of emergency management. The Coalition provides technical advice on physical and programmatic access, effective communication, and fosters working relationships among emergency managers and the disability community. The stakeholders are local and national advocates with expertise in access and functional needs (AFN) practices and experience in all aspects of the Americans with Disabilities Act. CIEP is a program of the Washington State Independent Living Council (WASILC) with funding from the Washington Department of Health (DOH).

Q:  What projects are you working on right now? Who is involved (partners)? What are you trying to achieve?

A:  On June 22, CIEP conducted a one-day Tabletop Exercise (TTX) with support from the National Exercise Program under FEMA.  In this discussion based exercise, we examined our existing standup protocols to ensure that we can respond to access and functional needs of the whole community during a catastrophic disaster as well as it has been doing during the wildfires, flooding, and other extreme weather events during the past two years.  The scenario used in this discussion was borrowed from the Cascadia Rising 2022 exercises that took place the week before.

Q:  What information do you wish more people knew when creating emergency plans for their communities?

A:  People with disabilities and other marginalized populations with access and functional needs (AFN) are often disproportionately impacted by disasters. They include people who may be temporarily with a disability that was incurred during the disaster, or those without access to stable housing, independent transportation, critical lifesaving information in their preferred language, and others.

AFN is categorized into what we call the CMIST framework: Communications, Medical, Independence, Security/Self-determination, and Transportation. FEMA provides good information on the CMIST framework.

Q:  Can you describe a bit more about the CMIST framework and share an example of how it has been used?

A:  During the wildfires and other disasters of 2020 and 2021, CIEP stakeholders stood up on several occasions to assist survivors with disabilities and other access and functional needs.  As the American Red Cross goes in to establish shelters in wildfire areas, disability integration specialists give every person that seeks assistance an assessment to find out if they need additional services to function while they are in the shelter, and after they leave. If there is an unmet AFN need, they email CIEP requesting assistance. 

Examples of assistance needed can range from wheelchairs and walkers (transportation/mobility) that were destroyed in a fire to temporary/permanent housing (security) that provides support for people with disabilities (self-determination).  CIEP stakeholders can provide accessibility assessments for the shelter facilities checking for things such as wider doors (independence), access to bathrooms and showers (medical/health), interpreters and communication support (communication) for survivors who are deaf, hard of hearing or do not have an understanding of the English language. CIEP is all about connecting people with those that have the resources that they need. An After Action Report was developed following the multiple wildfires in 2020.

Q:  Any last thoughts or information to share?

A:  Traditional emergency planning was planning FOR us, which led to a lot of misguided assumptions that fail when put into practice. Today, it is NOTHING ABOUT US WITHOUT US. When people with disabilities are included in the emergency planning process that incorporates these AFN considerations, the Whole Community benefits.

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