Rich Cooper

Aug 12, 2009

The front page, banner headline of today’s Washington Times states the following: “Disaster plans leave the disabled behind.” In what they term as an exclusive, Times Reporter, Audrey Hudson reports on the findings of newly issued report by the National Council on Disability that details the gaps that exists in including the country’s disabled population in emergency planning.

While I am THRILLED to see this issue get front page coverage from a major newspaper, I shake my head in utter frustration that we’ve added another report on something that we already know as fact.  That criticism is not meant to be a slam on the National Council on Disability and the great work they’ve done in assembling their report, “Effective Emergency Management: Making Improvements for Communities and People With Disabilities.”  Rather it’s an expression of my own personal frustration that we continue to talk and talk and talk about this issue and present report after report after report and the ball does not appear to move down the field to make the necessary changes.

As frustrated as I may be on the continued talk and lack of movement on this issue I can not begin to imagine the frustration and angst of the disabled and special needs populations in this country.  I am not a patient person by any measure.  I never have been, and the odds are I never will be, but how this population has held their tongues, bitten their lips or whatever they’ve done to restrain themselves from exploding in anger is beyond my comprehension.  Visions of the famous rant, “I’m mad as hell” from the movie Network come to mind when I think of how upset some of them probably are when living with this perpetual lack of action to this situation.

It should not go unnoticed that the Council’s report is the third major report issued this year that puts the brutal facts and shameful reality of our lack of preparedness when it comes to the needs of special needs populations in this country.

Earlier this year, ANSI’s Homeland Security Standards Panel, issued “Emergency Preparedness for Persons with Disabilities and Special Needs,” and Save the Children issued their report “Disaster Decade Report.”  These reports and now the Council’s lay it out for every American to see where we failing and what we need to do to make things better.

Each of these reports offer approaches as well as sensible, common sense solutions to making our preparedness as communities, families and citizens better.  While it’s great to have statistics, facts and plenty of documentation to reinforce the compelling arguments about what we need to do, my question is how many reports does it take to act?

In an August 4th hearing before the US Senate’s Ad hoc Subcommittee on Disaster Recovery, FEMA Administrator, Craig Fugate has given indications that he’s ready to make some of the necessary changes.  God knows he’s got enough reports, evidence and justification to act.  My only hope and prayer is that he’s given the leeway and resources to make things happen to improve this situation because it’s not just some of us that are impacted by these current shortcomings – it’s all of us that are affected.

I don’t think we need any more reports on the obvious.  We just need action.


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