Portlight Strategies – Disaster and Disability

In the early ’90s, I lived in rural Tennessee during an ice storm and two week power outage. I was lucky to have friends who rescued me and let me stay in their home outside the damage zone. Weather disasters can be deadly to anyone, but they’re especially life-threatening to seniors and people with disabilities.

I want to highlight two resources addressing the issues of disaster and disability. First: Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies Hurricane Harvey Disability Hotline (800) 626-4959 has received hundreds of urgent requests for assistance for people with disabilities and older adults. Portlight Strategies and the Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies Hurricane Harvey Disability Hotline have been able to offer emergency assistance to hundreds of people with disabilities since late last week.

According to Portlight, “We have been working closely with the Houston Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, disability organizations, TX state government, the FEMA Regional Disability Integration Specialist and Partnership member organizations from across the country. Portlight has also joined forces with the Cajun Navy to optimize our shared commitment to rescuing people and with Trach Mommas to begin the process of getting disability supplies to people who need them to maintain their health and independence. We are also partnering with Anthem, and appreciate their generous assistance for our hotline and disaster relief efforts.”

An interview by David Perry with Paul Timmons, co-founder of Portlight, appeared this week in Pacific Standard, Inside the Organization Saving Disabled People During Hurricane Harvey. A key point Timmons makes is, “Where this [inclusive disaster response] works is where there are pre-existing relationships between people in the emergency management community and people in the disability stakeholder community. Where it doesn’t work is where those relationships don’t exist. It’s too late to build those relationships once the disaster has come.”

NDY’s Director of Minority Outreach, Anita Cameron, has also been heavily involved in disaster relief planning for people with disabilities over the years. In 2004, while in Washington, DC, Anita trained to become a CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) member. In 2008, she helped to form the first CERT class consisting of people with disabilities in Rochester, New York. After joining Denver CERT in 2011, Anita became the first visually impaired CERT instructor for the State of Colorado in 2012, and in 2013, became a CERT Program Manager for the State. She has assisted in numerous exercises and real-world incidents with Denver CERT, including serving as a radio communications operator during the Colorado Flood of 2013.

Anita wrote a very helpful article on personal disaster preparation that contains excellent and practical advice that is useful for people with or without disabilities, Emergency Preparedness – A Common Sense Measure for the Disability Community. Wherever you live, please prepare – it may save your life.

And please consider supporting Portlight Strategies by going here.


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