Our month-long blog on emergency preparedness continues this week with an interview of Dave Stowe. After more than 10 years as a firefighter/EMT, Dave now specializes in Emergency Management and recently completed a Master’s Degree in the field.
Read on to discover more about Dave’s thoughts on emergency preparedness for individuals with disabilities.
Q: What is your role at the Shriver Center?
A: I serve as a consulting emergency management specialist to the Shriver Center. While working on my Master’s Degree, I was immediately impressed with the Shriver Center’s efforts to help people with disabilities prepare for and respond to emergencies and disasters. Bringing awareness of the unique challenges faced by people with disabilities is important, especially to emergency responders and government officials. I knew immediately that I wanted to be part of this amazing program.
Q: How can individuals with disabilities assist responders in creating a positive and safe outcome during emergencies?
A: I believe it works best if people with disabilities and responders have met before. That way, their first meeting is calm and relaxed, not in all the noise and confusion an emergency can cause.
These meetings can take place in a variety of ways. For example, fire departments may have events open to the community at their station. Also, some towns hold community-wide readiness events (“How to Prepare for Hurricanes” for example) that fire, police, and emergency medical officers must attend. Some towns offer registries that allow disability-related information to be shared with 911 (but kept private) ahead of a disaster to make response easier.
These are all possibilities.
Also, be as specific as you can with responders about your disability. What is it called? What do you need help with? What can you do by yourself? Do you need to bring equipment with you? Even people with the same disability have different needs, so this information is very important.
Q: How has working with the Shriver Center affected your approach to thinking about emergency preparedness and response for individuals with disabilities?
A: My previous job offered no real training on interacting with individuals with disabilities; we basically learned on our own. Working with the Shriver Center has broadened my perspective and understanding of why inclusive emergency planning, preparedness and response are so important. They make individual communities more resilient when emergencies occur, and highlight the individual strengths of someone with a disability, rather than focusing solely on limitations.
Whether it’s directing people how to escape from a building, organizing support for an emergency planning meeting, or volunteering in a mock emergency drill, everyone can help their town prepare for and respond to emergencies.