What is “Whole Community”? Why is it important? _review

Seven community members wearing face masks are seated around a table in a small meeting style room.
It may not look like it but the people in this room are socially distant. There is an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter in the room to interpret for those who need it.
Carrie, a Black woman in her 30s wears a facemask, has a white cane and a miniature horse that serves as her service animal

Carrie: Welcome! As early as your first visit we started talking about “whole community” planning, which is an attitude and way of doing things. Whole community plans apply to an entire community, strengthen community resilience, and help communities bounce back quickly after disaster strikes.

Good communication is an important part of whole community.

FEMA says the phrase “whole community” means involving people in the development of national preparedness document and ensuring their roles and responsibilities are reflected in the content of the materials.

As you work on whole community planning, you may get to know community members or groups that you didn’t know before. Part of respectful collaboration is checking with community groups about how they prefer to be identified.

One partner that may be new to you is the Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies, a national organization that addresses needs of people with disabilities before, during and after disasters and emergencies.

Communication is also important with partners. The Action Team will communicate with local planners before emergencies at Action Team meetings and other times. Using our Kick Start Directory tool may help you create and sustain stronger community partnerships. But what about when disaster strikes?

Communication between a disability organization and local emergency management and public health during an emergency may be different for each community. For example, some communities may give emergency instructions by radio. Some communities may want to use a communication type besides 9-1-1.

Disability organizations should ask local planners:
· How will you be sharing information with community organization like ours during a disaster, disaster and pandemic?
· How would you like community organizations like ours to communicate with you during an emergency, disaster or pandemic?

Disability organizations should ask local planners: We know that you would like everyone to be ready for an emergency, disaster, or pandemic. But if a person with a disability needs help during an emergency, disaster or pandemic, who should they contact? The answer to this question may be different in each community.

EM, a white bald man in his 50s wears a facemask

EM: Remember when you met César when we were out and about? He told us that he was on vacation in Faraway County when disaster struck. He made it to the emergency shelter, but they didn’t allow his service animal, Ginger, to stay with him. He asked you to imagine the impact of separating him from Ginger.

César said he was usually very independent. He lives alone, rides public transit to and from work and all over the city. He’s used to a lot of independence. Without Ginger, he lost a lot of his independence. He needed a lot more help than usual. César said he was humiliated. He had to get help to go to the bathroom and lunchroom. The shelter workers were so busy they didn’t have time to help him. He had to wait an hour to go to the bathroom. He was right to be angry.

Think about César and Ginger again. Separating people from their service animals in shelters was a Faraway County emergency policy. The policy protects people with animal allergies or fears.

This policy is:

EM, a white bald man in his 50s wears a facemask

EM: A policy that separates disaster survivors from their service animals is not an example of whole community planning.

The whole community means planning by everyone, including the general public, businesses, non-profit organizations, and all levels of government to increase coordination and better working relationships.

PJ, in their 30s wears a facemask and uses a walking cane

PJ: Participation of the whole community means equal access to local, state and national preparedness activities and programs without discrimination. It means meeting the equal access and functional needs of all individuals. And it also means consistent and active participation in all aspects of planning.

Community and individual readiness for emergencies are key.

Carrie, a Black woman in her 30s wears a facemask, has a white cane and a miniature horse that serves as her service animal

Carrie: We said that this policy violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the key civil rights law for people with disabilities. Under the ADA, state and local governments must provide physical access, program access, and access to effective communication in their services, including emergency planning. All of these must be included in emergency planning.

? Think about the policy again. Which is (are) the strongest ADA argument(s):

Now think about a new situation. Suppose there was smoke in the emergency shelter, but the alarm was broken and didn’t sound. Nobody told César about the smoke and he couldn’t smell it. If Ginger were with him and was trained to alert him to smoke, then in a sense Ginger would be needed for his access to effective communication.

? How should Faraway County change the policy that impacted César? The new policy should be:

Allen, a Black man, wears a facemask and uses a walker.

Allen: Some counties, cities, and towns include a statement of whole community philosophy in their emergency plans.

Here are three examples:

?Think about what the whole community could mean for your community. What are some examples of what that would look like?

Rachel, a white woman in her 40s, wears a facemask and glucose monitor on her upper arm

Rachel: Let’s talk about some real-life situations. See the table below for some issues experienced by people with disabilities in emergency situations and whole community solutions to address the issues.

What happened?Why?Whole community solution
People who are Deaf didn’t understand important safety information.The local emergency plan calls for warnings by radio and bullhorn.Multiple communication modalities for disaster warnings:
• Radio
• Bullhorn
• County website
• Texts
• Qualified American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter
• Closed Captioning (CC
People with intellectual disabilities were evacuated to an emergency shelter. Shelter workers took away the people’s money for their own safety.The shelter workers didn’t know that people with intellectual disabilities lead independent lives and could keep their own money. The shelter workers thought the people with intellectual disabilities needed to be protected. Training for shelter workers so they would know to support independence for people with intellectual disabilities.
People were not evacuated with their wheelchairs.The local emergency plan didn’t state the importance of keeping people together with mobility and other vital equipment.Training for planners and first responders. Change the emergency plan to state that people with disabilities should be evacuated with their key equipment.
People who have sensory issues (like social anxiety or Autism Spectrum Disorder, ASD) find the emergency shelter too noisy and crowded. They may feel overwhelmed.The shelter plan does not provide a separate quiet space in the shelter.Planning to have a separate quiet room is an important part of a shelter plan.