Toward More Inclusive Emergency Management

People with disabilities often die at higher rates during natural disasters or other emergencies. One Oregon advocacy group wants to change that.

June 22, 2022, 10:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Wheelchair accessibility lift

Sergey Granev / Accessibility lift

A new advocacy group in Oregon’s Marion County wants to promote more inclusive emergency management that takes into account the needs of people with disabilities. The group, led by 17-year-old Riley Hurt, “will connect the local disability community with emergency management professionals to improve outcomes for disabled folks affected by disasters,” according to an article by Marianne Dhenin in Next City.

“Disabled people are two to four times more likely to die or sustain critical injuries during a disaster than non-disabled people. A combination of factors leads to this condemnable statistic, including poor planning and barriers to accessing emergency information or services.” As Dhenin points out, “Ultimately, the systems meant to serve people during emergencies are not designed with disabled people in mind, and disabled people are often excluded from shaping these systems because their expertise is stigmatized or dismissed. The spaces where emergency systems are designed, like elected government and the healthcare, technology, and engineering industries, are also inaccessible.” 

Advocacy groups like Hurt’s can help bridge the gap. “Across the country, the need for more inclusive emergency management grows more evident every time a climate catastrophe hits. During the record-breaking heatwave in Portland, Oregon, last June, some of the first Portlanders to die from hyperthermia were disabled adults living in low-income neighborhoods. When Hurricane Ida made landfall in Louisiana last August, disabled residents struggled to access support for evacuation.”

Hurt hopes the Marion County group will grow and serve as a model for bridging disaster management and disability advocacy.

Tuesday, June 21, 2022 in Next City

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