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People with disabilities struggle to evacuate forest fires

For this reason, the Red Cross has focused on making long-term investments in infrastructure. such as back-up solar power, disaster training and installing battery backups for people who depend on electricity for their medical devices in hard-hit places like northern California, said Brad Kieserman , vice president of disaster operations and organizational logistics.

Of 2,059 community health centers across California, an analysis by Direct Relief, a nonprofit humanitarian organization, shows that 61% do not have emergency power. In Butte County, there is no community health center with emergency power, according to the analysis.

The challenge of evacuating and caring for people with disabilities is not new. Many of the more than 1,800 people killed in Hurricane Katrina in 2005 were elderly and disabled.

In response, Congress passed a law in 2006 requiring the Federal Emergency Management Agency to appoint a disability coordinator and develop guidelines to better serve people with disabilities. However, an accountability report released in 2019 showed that the agency did not provide comprehensive disability training to its staff. And the agency’s emergency preparedness report that year made no mention of people with disabilities.

FEMA spokeswoman Jaclyn Rothenberg said under President Biden, the agency focused on strengthening its relationships with disability organizations to improve preparedness.

Likewise, California encourages state officials to meet regularly with organizations of people with disabilities, according to Vance Taylor, chief of the access and functional needs office of the state emergency services agency. These organizations can offer their expertise and assistance during evacuations, including providing electric wheelchairs, motorized elevators, ventilators or other supplies..

With advice from local disability organizations, Plumas County has implemented an emergency transportation service for anyone with a disability or who cannot drive, and Butte County now maintains a list of people who may have need help in a crisis and sends law enforcement officers to their homes during evacuations.

nytimes Gt