Post by: Kim Fletcher, et al
The District of Columbia is a city rich with diversity and opportunity. According to the 2006 Census, 581,530 people live in the city limits. DC is full of restaurants, tourist attractions, and has a robust public transportation system. DC is truly an international city, with 12% of its residents foreign-born. While all these factors and more make DC a wonderful place to visit and live, DC also has unique challenges and opportunities when it comes to emergency management. The evolution of social media in emergency planning and preparedness has been rapid and has had significant influence on how citizens get information during a disaster or emergency. The many functional and access needs group require planning and engagement. The purpose of this report is to highlight the strategy and activities Serve DC can engage in to increase preparedness for the disability communities, veterans and baby boomers – all constituent groups of Serve DC.
The recommendations in this strategy were developed after the RCS consultant team did extensive interviews and research into activities and programs for these targeted constituent groups across the country. We selected major metropolitan areas with large constituent populations as well as robust emergency management programs. The objective in doing this process was to identify best practices, challenges, and successful activities and to benchmark a baseline for the District to use for measurement of progress in these areas.
The functional and access needs groups in DC are large and diverse. They include the deaf, individuals with physical disabilities, individuals with mental illness, individuals fluent in a language other than English, the medically vulnerable, and the aged. For purposes of this strategy, Serve DC included veterans and baby boomers as they are a focus of the volunteerism programs in the District. While it is important to take all these groups and their special needs into consideration when planning for emergencies, we recognized that in the aggregate, this number of focus groups would be much too large for the time and resource constraints of this project. Therefore, we used our research to narrow the focus, targeting specific groups that fit the following criteria: relatively well organized, high level of committed support – either in the form of extant support groups or mature communities, high likelihood of successful engagement between now and September and a clear need for improvement in terms of emergency preparedness, particularly as it relates to citizen preparedness in the first 72 hours of a disaster. Therefore, the focus of this report will be on the Citizen Emergency Response Teams (CERTS), the deaf community, veterans, and baby boomers. While other groups have been considered (see the chart in the support materials) the initial work of this project will focus on these groups but we foresee including the broader functional and access needs community in the September activities.