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 your local Emergency Management agency.
Special Needs Program
Some people have medical issues that cannot be accommodated in a regular public shelter. For those people whose health would quickly deteriorate in a public shelter, and have no other safe place to go, there are Special Care shelters available. Some residents do not have transportation to get to a shelter. The Special Needs Program provides shelter and transportation to Lee County residents at no cost.
You must complete an application to see if your medical issues qualify for a Special Care 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 Care shelter. You must have a caregiver with you during your stay at the Special Care shelter. During an emergency we have very limited staff working in the shelters, so your caregiver is critically important for your health and safety.
There is limited hospital sheltering for people who are extremely high risk and cannot survive outside a hospital environment. Your physician must recommend hospital sheltering and give specific details of your medical situation. The hospital sheltering does not include any medical attention and is strictly for riding out the storm in the hospital facility. 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. In any emergency situation you should have a plan for where you will go if you cannot return to your home because of damage. Food and water will be provided at the shelter. It is a good idea to bring some drinks and snacks in case you get hungry between meals. If you require a special diet, you must bring that with you.
When Lee County enters the 5-day forecast cone for a hurricane or tropical storm, we stop processing Special Needs applications so we can prepare for evacuations.
LeeTran is Lee County's public transit system. The Special Needs Program also provides transportation via LeeTran and EMS to any of our shelters during an evacuation for Lee County residents. 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, with a few exceptions:
- The bus route in South Fort Myers will NOT travel into Collier County. It will stop at the Bonita Springs
- The bus route on Pine Island will be activated, transporting residents to the nearest Transfer Point or Shelter;
- A temporary bus route will be activated for Sanibel and Captiva Islands, to assist with evacuating island residents and workers;
- Additional transfer points will be activated to shuttle riders from regular bus routes to shelters.
At the point when the winds reach a sustained 40 mph, Lee County will pull all emergency vehicles off the road until the storm has passed. This includes ambulances, fire trucks, police vehicles and buses.
Contact Emergency Management if you have any questions.