Texas Emergency Management ONLINE 2011 Vol. 58 No. 8

FNSS Tool Kit: A Resource for Emergency Managers

FNSS Tool Kit: A Resource for Emergency Managers

Earlier this year, BCFS and FEMA released the Functional Needs Support Services (FNSS) Guide, a document that provided guidelines for how local, regional and state governments should plan for persons with functional and access needs in a general population shelter. A Texas FNSS Integration Committee has been created and has produced additional materials and a tool kit. Below is more information about this tool kit and other related resources for the emergency management community regarding FNSS.

What are the main things the Texas emergency management community should know about FNSS ?
FNSS stands for Functional Needs Support Services. The term “FNSS” is new and the federal guidance has implications for general population sheltering operations. However, access and functional needs of citizens across Texas is not new. Under federal law, people with disabilities cannot be turned away from general population shelters. Medical shelter placement should only be offered if the individual has certain conditions which might necessitate medical oversight. Those conditions are listed in the FNSS Tool Kit

What do I need to know about the FNSS tool kit?
The tool kit provides information needed to build partnerships. No one organization or jurisdiction can do it all on its own. Local jurisdictions are not facing FNSS integration alone. The FNSS Tool Kit provides a wide array of resources for pre-planning on how to meet the needs of people with functional and access needs. As with any element of response planning, FNSS should be addressed to the best of the emergency management community’s capabilities.

What are some highlights that will make incorporating FNSS guidelines into shelter operations easier?
This tool kit can help planners to find information on implementing FNSS within their communities. These include:

  • Advice on how to estimate the number of people with functional and access needs within the community.
  • Suggestions for identifying disability leaders in a local community to bring to the planning table.
  • A checklist for emergency shelters to make sure they are accessible and temporary changes that can be made to make them accessible.
  • Identification of key shelter functions and shelter staffing recommendations.
  • Intake and triage, discharge assessment, and transportation forms.
  • Tips and tools for communicating affectively with people with functional and access needs.
  • Links to durable medical equipment and consumable medical supply providers.

What should emergency management professionals do to incorporate FNSS guidelines into their shelter operations?
Commit to planning for people with disabilities in every aspect of the emergency management program. Every jurisdiction needs to engage with community members to discover community needs, communicate individual preparedness and leverage individual capabilities to enhance whole of community emergency management. As with anything in emergency management, the key to a successful program is planning, exercise, and training.

Conduct an analysis of your program, include sheltering, and determine what areas need updating, changing and developing. Utilize the FNSS Tool Kit to find the assistance that you need and talk to other organizations and communities to obtain additional information as necessary.

Discuss the FNSS Integration Committee.
The FNSS Integration Committee includes representatives from state agencies, the Emergency Management Association of Texas, Baptist Child & Family Services, The Salvation Army and the American Red Cross. The committee has consulted with advocacy groups for people with disabilities.  The full membership with contact information is included in the FNSS Tool Kit.

What are some goals and objectives the FNSS Integration Committee.
The committee will continue to meet to identify and address concerns that surface during implementation that have come up since the time the tool kit was developed. It will update tool kit content and associated resource data and listings, continue efforts in identifying operations in which FNSS integration would be applicable. It also intends to ensure consistency at a state level between programs such as the Transportation Assistance Registry and the Texas Emergency Tracking Network.

What FNSS-related training is available for emergency management professionals and shelter managers?
There are a number of programs available that can be useful in implementing and supporting shelter operations and FNSS. These include:

The City of San Antonio offers a Disability Etiquette handbook

The University of Kansas Research and Training Center on Independent Living (RTC/IL) and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment have two courses which may be helpful. These are web based courses and can be found at www.kdheks.gov.

Ready, Willing, & Able (course #1020884). This 2-hour introductory course covers disability etiquette, terminology, communication methods and evacuation tips to assist people with physical, sensory or cognitive disabilities.

Planning for Disaster Related Risk and Functional Needs of People with Disabilities (course #1026403). This 1-hour course identifies functional needs and seven risk factors associated with disasters and the health and safety of people with disabilities and how to prepare accordingly.

TDEM is willing to conduct briefings on the FNSS Tool Kit. Send a request to TDEM.FNSS@dps.texas.gov

The FNSS Committee will address training at future meetings.

Are there any other areas in emergency management that are/or will be impacted by FNSS guidelines?
All areas of emergency management where services are provided to individuals are affected by ADA compliance. While the FNSS Guidelines specifically address provisions for providing support to people with functional access needs in general population shelters, all operations directly linked to the provision of services to the public at a given location or through specific means are affected. Some examples are evacuation, reception, and repatriation HUBs; refuges of last resort, points of distribution (PODs) including those for mass prophylaxis/vaccination purposes, family assistance centers, disaster assistance centers, warning and public information delivery, and public awareness and education delivery. As mentioned earlier in this article, planning for inclusion of people with disabilities should be an integral part of your emergency management process.

TDEM and the FNSS Integration Committee consider the FNSS Tool Kit to be a living document which we intend to add to, update, and include recommendations from the communities and professionals that use it. Please take the time to review the documents and provide us feedback. Please include whether this met your needs or request additional information as needed. TDEM has established an e-mail address for questions or information related to FNSS.  It is: TDEM.FNSS@dps.texas.gov

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