population shelters whenever possible. As such, it is important to ensure adequate planning for children with disabilities in general shelters. If a child has a medical need that requires professional licensed staff oversight, then placement in a medical shelter may be appropriate, but planning should include considerations for keeping the family unit together (instead of splitting the child and one parent away from the rest of the family).
Thinking about mental health, Tatro explained the trauma and stress of disaster and the sheltering experience can impact children differently than adults. New and stressful experiences can include, for example, disease isolation and quarantine, being in a group living situation with thousands of strangers, standing in line to get meals, or trying to find clothing. Educational opportunities, games and recreation, and counseling opportunities, including psychological first aid, can help to alleviate some of the stress and trauma for these children. It is important to draw on partnerships to meet some of those needs, Tatro said. Further mental health considerations for children in emergencies are explored in Chapter 8.
Functional Needs Support Services
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Office of Disability Integration and Coordination was established to provide guidance, tools, methods, and strategies to integrate and coordinate emergency management that is inclusive of children and adults with access and functional needs, in accordance with federal civil rights laws and regulations. Marcie Roth, director of the Office of Disability Integration and Coordination at FEMA, quoted FEMA administrator Craig Fugate, who has stated that “if we wait and plan for people with disabilities after we write the basic plan we fail.” In this spirit, FEMA tools and resources are now inclusive of the whole community (rather than addressing some subpopulations in the back of a manual or in a separate annex).
Several federal laws prohibit discrimination in emergency programs on the basis of disability (see Box 7-1). These laws apply to preparation, exercises, notification, evacuation and transportation, sheltering, first aid and medical services, temporary lodging and housing, transition back to the community, clean-up, and other emergency- and disaster-related programs, services, and activities.