During disaster management, it is paramount to think critically about disabled population. Disability should be considered in terms of body functioning, as well as temporary impairment. Disability is a term used not only for people on wheelchairs, the blind, and other permanently disabled individuals. It also covers people with temporary functional limitations, including but not limited to disability after surgery, accidents, and other injuries. Individuals with limitations in talking, walking, listening, learning, and responding are also classified as disabled. Moreover, such limitations as heart diseases, psychiatric conditions, reduced stamina, chemicals sensitivity, and cognitive problems are also classified as disabilities. It calls for emergency management to plan activities during disasters, which will help to secure such essential basic needs as communication, medical needs, supervision, transportation, and functional independence.
When opening a public shelter for people with special needs, the facility managers should be familiar with Americans with Disability Act (ADA) regulations and other requirements for running such facilities. Different legal authorities, such as DME and CMS, indicate that facilities of such type should follow the initiatives that counter threats to life and property. Such challenges should be dealt with before starting a shelter. For instance, the local governments can assist in providing such shelters with food, medicine, and provide additional support on request. On the other hand, security considerations include working with local police to develop button activated alarm systems that inform police officers in case of emergencies, establishing a direct emergency phone line, taking fire prevention measures, installing security features around the facility, such as doors that cannot be forcefully opened and security cameras. Knowledge of the demographics of the community is also essential, since it indicates the different disabilities that will be cared for in the shelter. Planning shelter capacity is also vital (Aldrich & Benson, 2008). It is crucial to create a classification of people in accordance to the disability type, age, gender, race, etc., to ensure proper conditions for all people.
Location is one of a major logistic challenges in the process of choosing a shelter site. The first and foremost issue that has to be considered while establishing a shelter is whether the building is capable of meeting the needs of individuals, especially the ones with functional requirements. Finding a good facility and equipping it with appropriate modifications, as required by FNSS, is a crucial element (Bell & Morales, 2020). The location of the shelter is also influenced by the disaster faced by the community. However, the location should be connected to major modes of transport. The shelter should be accessible to people with special needs by use of common transport systems in case they travel on their own. Moreover, it should be in the strategic location with easy access to such supplies as food, and transport. The location should not necessarily be in a city center. Outskirts of the city would be preferable, especially if the disaster hit the city. Trained individuals should identify what constitutes an accessible facility. Such individuals as ADA consultants and ADA accessibility inspectors should evaluate a location to determine whether it is capable of hosting a shelter or whether some modifications have to be made to make the place easily accessible (Aldrich & Benson, 2008). Such places include schools and other public institutions.
The checklist for emergency shelters, as per the ADA regulations, should have accessible entrances, as well as routes to all activity areas, such as toilets, considering individuals in wheelchairs. Sidewalks, sleeping areas, restrooms, as well as showers and parking lots should also be available (Aldrich & Benson, 2008). A good shelter facility should also have public telephones, eating areas, medical first aid areas, as well as recreation areas. The facility should have medical units for performing oxygen therapy and tube feeding. A semi-permanent morgue needs to be considered in case of death. Moreover, sleeping areas for the population, as well as separate areas for volunteers need to be organized as well.
For the facility to run efficiently, the shelter would need a wide range of personnel that helps in locating and providing care, especially to children and individuals with special needs. When planning the shelter, it is vital to consider the Maintenance Crew who will provide an alternative source of power, such as power generators in the event of a blackout. Moreover, medical providers, such as a physician, registered nurses, and psychiatrists, should be present in the facility. The shelter would also require such specialist as interpreters, information technology technicians, as well as members of other supportive services to ensure proper functioning of all systems. Food providers, as well as transport providers and shelter maintenance providers, should be found before starting the shelter. Other support staff might include shelter support volunteers from organizations, such as the American Red Cross. A registrar for registering people upon arrival at the accommodation and managing the general registration process should be available at place as well (Sandra, 2009). Finally, security officers need to be present in the facility to ensure safety, direct traffic, monitor parking, and maintain integrity in the shelter.
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Some of the functional challenges that might be encountered in the shelter include taking care of mental health patients, as well as people with cognitive and intellectual limitations. Additional support for individuals suffering hearing problems, speech disabilities, and language difficulties is crucial. Other challenges include conditions that affect mobility, besides chronic diseases, and temporary limitations, such as conditions connected with post-surgery and pregnancy (Sandra, 2009). Security might also be a challenge. However, this issue can be solved by hiring enough security personnel to ensure that the facility is safe and also upholds integrity. Therefore, when erecting a shelter, it is necessary to source staff with a wide range of expertise so that they could ensure the well-being of individuals with special needs.
When receiving individuals, details regarding their disabilities will be recorded to ensure their comfort. Such forms as an individual’s Functional Needs Registration, Functional Needs Shelter Volunteer Application, Functional Needs Shelter Volunteer Consent, as well as Parental Consent Forms should be signed (Aldrich & Benson, 2008). Moreover, individuals with special needs who require a shelter would be offered one even if they are not included in the initial list of patients. Further, the individuals with disabilities will be accorded the same programs and services as the general population, as the state law requires. Also, individuals and children with disabilities will not be removed from their caregivers, friends, and family, since the standard of care they need might not be available in the public shelter. Therefore, individuals with disabilities who have family or caregivers accompanying them should be accommodated together, since their caregivers can meet their specific needs.
The shelter will be closed when the individuals will be able to return to their residents. Before closing the shelter, individuals who need temporary housing or those who need more time to get alternative homes should be allowed enough time to do so. In the event where some individuals are unable to get back to their homes, alternative interventions, such as contacting their relatives or friends, will be initiated. The decision to close the shelter will be based on such factors as how the event impacted the individuals and their homes (Kailes & Enders, 2007). The availability of transportation resources, as well as the time of the day, will also determine the closure of the facility. Moreover, considering that people with disabilities might be anxious to return home, proactive measures should be procured to ensure that no one leaves the facility until the “all clear” notice has been given. During departure, nurses and other caregivers should make necessary arrangements for individuals with disabilities to ensure smooth transition. Additionally, assistance in making arrangement phone calls and access to public transportation will be provided to ensure that all people reach their homes safely. Such details as the time when individuals left the shelter should be well recorded in the Functional Needs Registration form.
Therefore, planning and responding to disasters, particularly concerning persons with disabilities is very challenging. Since disaster can hit at any time, considerable planning, as well as preparation of resources required for proper functioning of a shelter, is needed. In order to ensure that care is adequately provided for individuals with special needs, it is vital to ensure that they get services and programs specifically designed to address their conditions. It is also essential to give the sheltered individuals enough time to find alternative homes before closing the shelter. In addition, when leaving the shelter, adequate support, such as transportation, wheelchairs, etc. should be availed to ensure that individuals reach their homes safely.