TEXAS DISABILITY TASK FORCE ON EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT
The Texas Disability Task Force (DTF) on Emergency Management was formed under the leadership of the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) and the Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities in late 2011. This advisory group is tasked with developing and providing guidance and information related to preparedness and response that is inclusive of people with disabilities to state and local emergency managers. The task force is made up of emergency management professionals, disability stakeholder organizations, and rehabilitation and independent living professionals. Over the last five years, this group and its subcommittees have developed guidance documents, training curriculum and outreach initiatives.
At the beginning of 2016, TDEM reorganized groups under the Texas Emergency Management Advisory Committee (TEMAC) to allow for better awareness collaboration. DTF was one of the groups moved into the TEMAC structure. During this transition, we decided to review the existing structure and subcommittees (Training, Outreach and Effective Communications, and Planning) to determine if there was a better way to function and accomplish goals in a timely manner. The Planning Subcommittee, which reviews TDEM local annex templates and state annexes, is the only subcommittee that remains. All the functions of the Training and Outreach and Effective Communications Subcommittees are now part of the broader DTF. We established four overarching goals for DTF to focus on:
Currently, DTF is in the process of updating the charter to reflect our mission post reorganization. We are also working to include more local entities as official members. DTF has also released three Texas Disability Integration Newsletters this year. These newsletters provide information, accomplishments, and initiatives related to emergency management preparedness and response activities at the local, regional, state, and organizational levels that are inclusive of people with disabilities. DTF is participating in numerous TDEM local annex template workgroups, such as Public Health and Medical and Mass Care, to ensure that people with disabilities and/or access and functional needs are included in the documents.
The task force is also in the process of finalizing two training projects a video of the “Overview of the Whole Community Approach, Disability Rights, and Functional Needs Support Services (FNSS) Integration in Emergency Management” training previously developed by the task force, and a computer-based training entitled “FNSS in General Population Shelters”. We are targeting completion of the video in early 2017 and the computer-based training is expected to be completed by the end of 2016.
In 2014 and 2015 DTF published the state of Texas FNSS Toolkit and the state of Texas Effective Communications Toolkit, respectively. The FNSS Toolkit is updated annually and includes guidance to local jurisdictions on the requirements related to sheltering children and adults with disabilities and/or access and functional needs. The Effective Communications Toolkit provides valuable information to emergency management and public information professionals to help ensure that emergency communications services and equipment address the functional and access needs of people with disabilities as part of a “whole community” approach endorsed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). DTF is currently working to update the document and make the document more concise.
The DTF works closely with the STEAR Committee. STEAR is a registry where people with disabilities and/or access and functional needs can register themselves for assistance during disasters. The information in STEAR provides local emergency planners and emergency responders with additional information on the needs in their community so they can better prepare and respond to disasters. Both groups are currently working to ensure the STEAR website is fully accessible. To register for STEAR or for more information visit the TDEM STEAR webpage.
The task force also works to educate the emergency management community through presentations at workshops and conferences. This year the task force presented at the 2016 Texas Emergency Management Conference on disability awareness and etiquette. A variety of handouts were distributed including a handout with American Sign Language symbols that are important in emergencies, a TIPS for First Responders booklet, A TIPS for First Responders mobile application information card, and a Directory of Community Resources in Texas information ruler. The task force also presented at the Houston Donations Management Annex Workshop for incorporating people with disabilities and access and functional needs into the local Donations Management Annex.
In 2017, DTF will focus on developing SMART goals that assist the group in accomplishing our overarching goals. We are also working with the TDEM exercise team to incorporate exercise objectives specific to testing local capabilities with evacuating and transporting people with functional and access needs and/or disabilities for the 2017 full scale hurricane exercise.
If you would like to join DTF or sign up for the quarterly newsletter, email DTF facilitator, Gisela Ryan-Bunger.