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

Recent Developments in Collaboration and Networking among Entities Providing Assistance to Individuals with Disabilities Before, During and After Disaster Strikes

An Update from the NCIL Emergency Preparedness and Response Subcommittee

Christy Dunaway, Chair

As reported in our last update, the lack of appropriate and accessible services and the violation of civil rights in shelters, disaster recovery centers and post-disaster offerings, such as emergency funding and housing, has been a cause for concern among advocates. The issue has been discussed frequently at local, state and national levels. In 2010, as a result of considerable advocacy efforts from many within the disability community, NCIL entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). This MOU allows NCIL and our representatives access to Disaster Recovery Centers operated by FEMA. Access by CILs and other disability-related entities to the DRCs is vital in ensuring quality outcomes. DRC staff members are not as familiar with disability and functional needs or limitations as CIL staff are. We have played an important role in individual lives through our intervention at DRCs.

Following in this same spirit of networking and collaboration, the NCIL Emergency Preparedness and Response Subcommittee continues to negotiate with the American Red Cross (ARC) to develop an MOU between NCIL and ARC.

In recent years, several members of the Subcommittee have come to know the disaster response work of Portlight Strategies. Portlight provided valuable services to Mississippians in the wake of Katrina through the provision of durable medical equipment and supplies lost to the storm. In addition to the donations received from CILs throughout the country, Portlight shipped two 18 wheeler trucks of equipment we had specifically asked for and needed. 

Portlight recently hosted a three day conference called “Getting It Right.” The conference was such so successful that they have decided to host one day workshops across the country. The workshops will bring local, state and national leaders in emergency preparedness and response together with local CILs and other agencies supporting individuals with disabilities for networking and collaboration. It is because of their hard work for and with the disability community that NCIL and Portlight have decided to enter into an MOU to ensure the provision of services in the wake of disaster. “We have worked well with individual CILs and this MOU with NCIL will help us facilitate more and better relationships with Centers around the country, enhancing NCIL’s capacity to better serve Centers and individuals with disabilities after disaster strikes” said Paul Timmons, Director of Portlight Strategies.

Portlight Strategies Inc. was founded in 1997 to facilitate a variety of projects involving people with disabilities, including post-disaster relief projects. “From small beginnings are great works accomplished. Small acts of kindness can make a great difference in the world and it is in this spirit that Portlight does the work that we do. We rely on people to do the right thing when that thing needs to be done.”