People with Disabilities
Estimates vary, but as many as one in four people live with some type of disability. Sometimes signs are obvious, a wheelchair, a guide dog or a cane. However, many times a disability is not obvious. Whether obvious or not, awareness and sensitivity toward persons with disabilities makes good sense.
People with disabilities must assume personal responsibility and be prepared for an emergency. The basic steps of a personal safety plan are the same for everyone.
Emergency Management has been an active participant in the ADA Advisory Board Meetings for a number of years to network with the community and to gain insight on the number of residents with disabilities, and their needs during a disaster.
Emergency Management has also been working with agencies representing people with disabilities to further understand their unmet needs. We survey the agency representatives to discover gaps in service, and work to provide reasonable accommodations. A few of the things we have added as a result of this collaboration are:
- EOC added a People with Disabilities Advisor to our Incident Command Structure to address the needs of residents with physical or mental impairments.
- Added training for shelter managers on people with disabilities. This was presented by people with disabilities and included a low vision simulation exercise. This will be included in all future trainings for shelter managers.
- Currently working with these representatives on a project to walk through our public shelters to determine how friendly each one is for people with different types of disabilities. This is still in progress. Once completed, we believe it will be valuable information for members of our community with disabilities.
Practicing disability etiquette makes people with disabilities feel more welcome and comfortable. Here are a few things anyone can do to make a person with a disability feel more at ease in any situation.
- Remember, a person with a disability is a person first. Ask before you help. Don't assume a person with a disability needs your help with a task. If you are asked for help, be sure to ask what kind of assistance is needed.
- Be sensitive regarding personal space and physical contact. Respect personal space and remember that people often consider their equipment part of their person.
- Think before you speak. Speak to the person, not their aide or companion. Converse with a person with a disability as you would any other person. Get permission from a parent or guardian before interacting with children.
Part of any plan is to identify and use all available resources. If you need help or have questions, contact Lee County's ADA Coordinator at 239-533-2111.
Special Medical Needs Program
The Special Medical Needs Program provides shelter and transportation service to residents during a tropical storm event at no cost. Some people have medical issues such that their health would quickly deteriorate in a public shelter, but have no other safe place to go. Some residents do not have transportation to get to the shelter.
You must complete an application to see if your medical issues qualify for a Special Medical Needs Shelter, or if you need transportation. Applications are available on our website (www.LeeEOC.com) and can be submitted directly online, or we can mail one to you. There are specific criteria and requirements to be eligible for the Special Medical Needs Shelter. You must have a caregiver with you at the shelter during your stay. We have very limited staff working in the shelters, so your caregiver is critically important to your health and safety.
When Lee County enters the 5-day forecast cone for a hurricane or tropical storm, we stop processing applications for the Program so we can prepare for evacuations. Apply early.
There is limited shelter space in a hospital for people who are extremely high risk and cannot be managed in a shelter. You MUST have a caregiver with you or you will not be assigned to a hospital shelter. Hospital sheltering does not include any medical attention. You will shelter in hallways, conference rooms, or any other available space (rooms are occupied by patients) and is strictly for riding out the storm in some area of the hospital. Your physician must recommend sheltering in a hospital, and give specific reasons. Should you require medical attention during the time you are sheltering, you must register as a patient. You will be responsible for all hospital and medical fees from that point forward.
As at any other shelter, you must bring the emergency supplies you need to survive. Food and water will be provided, but you should bring some food and drinks with you. If you require a special diet, you must bring that with you. Bring all medications, assistive devices, medical equipment, such as nebulizers or CPAPs, personal hygiene items, diapers, clothes, books, tablets, etc.
In any emergency situation, you should have a plan for where you will go if you cannot return home because of damage.
LeeTran is Lee County's public transit system. The Special Needs Program provides transportation via LeeTran to any of our shelters and via EMS for stretcher transports to hospitals during an evacuation. Once an evacuation has been ordered, bus fares are suspended while we work hard to get people to open shelters. LeeTran's regular bus routes become the emergency evacuation bus routes.
Download the Ride LeeTran app to get real time tracking of your bus, find the nearest bus stop, or plan your trip. Get more information at www.RideLeeTran.com
At the point when the winds reach a sustained 40 mph, Lee County will pull all emergency vehicles from the road until the storm has passed. This includes ambulances, fire trucks, police vehicles, and buses. Emergency responders will not get back on the road to answer calls until the storm has passed and it is safe to do so.
Contact Emergency Management if you have any questions.