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Empowered Disabled Community Strengthens Emergency Response

A Northland disability sector emergency response mentor says a better empowered disabled sector strengthens the community’s collective resilience.

Northland Civil Defence welfare co-ordination group member Nicole Ross spoke to about 300 people at the Northland Civil Defence Emergency Management Forum, held in Whangārei recently.

Ross, emergency planner and response mentor for Northland’s disability support services provider NorthAble, said an approach focused on enabling good lives for the disabled or tāngata whaikaha (people who are determined to do well) was important.

It should drive civil defence emergency response involvement with the sector, Ross said.

“That should be put at the front and centre of emergency management planning."

This approach included focusing on self-determination, being mana enhancing and person centred.

“We can prepare for civil defence emergencies and natural disasters but personal emergencies happen too,” Ross said.

Cyclone Gabrielle saw more than 60,000 Northlanders without power – some for up to two weeks.

Ross said one example of preparation was to contact power providers if a disabled person’s medication needed to be refrigerated.

Northland Civil Defence welfare co-rdinating group member and disability emergency response mentor Nicole Ross. Photo: Susan Botting Local Democracy Reporter Northland.

She said there was also the need for medication lists to be at hand.

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“And you should all have your NHI number in your grab and go bag,” Ross told attendees at the forum.

The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) website said preparation was important.

“If you or someone in your whānau/family has special requirements or is disabled, you will need to include their needs in your plan for emergencies,” it said.

“People with mobility, hearing and visual impairments, and intellectual disabilities will need additional support, and it’s important to take time to plan and prepare.”

NEMA and Ross cited Bay of Plenty Civil Defence’s disaster preparedness for people with disabilities resource for those working with tāngata whaikaha on emergency preparedness.

The resource said preparation and the amount of prior practice before a disaster would determine how much a person with a disability dealt with and recovered from disasters.

Personal disaster preparation was a continuing process. It helped the disabled and their networks identify, get, develop, manage and maintain the information and resources needed to deal with a disaster, it said.

“Prepare yourself based on the capabilities and limitations you believe you will have after the disaster.

"Also keep in mind that your usual ways of support and assistance may not be available to you for some time during an evacuation and after the disaster,” the resource said.

An emergency list should be put together.

“Make an emergency information list that you and your network can use.

“This list will let others know who to call if they find you unconscious, unable to speak or they need to help you evacuate quickly.

“Besides emergency out-of-town contacts, your list should include the names and numbers of everyone in your network.” the resource said.

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