the advocacy monitor

Independent Living News & Policy from the National Council on Independent Living

Memorandum of Understanding between NCIL and the American Red Cross: Official Signing Ceremony to Take Place at the 2014 Annual Conference on Independent Living!

The NCIL Board of Directors, with assistance from the Emergency Preparedness Subcommittee, has successfully negotiated a Memorandum of Understanding between NCIL and the American Red Cross (ARC). An official signing ceremony will take place during the NCIL Annual Conference on Thursday, July 31. However, the two entities have not waited for the MOU to become official before collaborating to assist individuals with disabilities immediately following a disaster.

Severe weather hit several states during the last few days of April with significant tornado damage affecting Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Mississippi. Thousands of individuals were impacted, many of whom had disabilities. ARC contacted Christy Dunaway, Chairperson of the NCIL Emergency Preparedness Subcommittee and Director of the CIL in Mississippi, just a few days after three tornadoes destroyed sections of several towns in her state. Two representatives from ARC traveled to Mississippi and spent over a week with Christy and her staff to ensure the development of a strong working relationship between the local CIL and the Regional Red Cross, both of whom had already taken steps to work together in the past. As a result of these efforts, the local CIL learned a great deal about the inner workings of the ARC, where and when the CIL’s expertise can best be used to assist individuals with disabilities affected, and who the key players are in local disaster relief. All of these efforts have been documented and the NCIL Emergency Preparedness Subcommittee will work diligently with the ARC to encourage this type of continued collaboration with other local CILs. If you have questions or need intervention between your local CIL and ARC or FEMA, please contact us through the NCIL offices. We have learned a lot and are ready and willing to assist. 

While the collaborative efforts between NCIL and ARC absolutely had a positive impact on how the local CIL provided disaster relief services, the MOUs already negotiated between NCIL and FEMA and between NCIL and Portlight Strategies had tremendous value as well. Those relationships have provided the local CIL with support and assistance in reaching individuals affected by the storms and assisting them to meet the specific needs of individuals with disabilities. The local CIL in Mississippi agreed to provide case management for FEMA and Red Cross in an effort to learn their system and understand how they determine the access and functional needs of individuals. What they have learned will assist the NCIL Emergency Preparedness Subcommittee in the future as they advocate for FEMA and local emergency relief agencies to work more closely with Centers and to consider contracting with them to provide both short-term and long-term disaster assistance to individuals with disabilities affected by disaster.

The Emergency Preparedness and Response Subcommittee will be presenting at the NCIL Annual Conference in a session entitled “Are You Ready?” The session will provide information on how to establish local relationships with disaster relief agencies and how the national relationships mentioned above can benefit them. In addition, lessons learned from these most recent disasters will be shared with participants. We hope you will join us for this session and then stick around for the formal signing ceremony of the Memorandum of Understanding between NCIL and American Red Cross!

See you there!


  1. Eric Tissenbaum says

    Having worked in the disaster responses for many years and as a person with a disability working for a Center for Independent Living I hope this means we will see a huge change in attitude at ARC and much mor cooperation from them.

  2. Rhonda Thompson says

    I am the Community Relations Specialist at the CIL in Minot, ND. I have been working with the ARC Disaster Services Specialist here as well as Emergency Management in several of the counties we cover. We even participate in Emergency Exercises, participate in the Local Resource Council for one County right now with plans to be a part of several others. We are a part of the disaster planning and will be a part of any recovery events if needed.