Re: Volunteers Learn to Help People with Disabilities During Disaster Response

Nearly 50 people gathered for the “Best Practices for Assisting People With Disabilities During Disaster” Workshop hosted by Pomperaug Health District Medical Reserve Corps Unit, June 3, at the Woodbury Community Senior Center.
Attendees, representing Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) and MRC units from Southbury, Woodbury, Oxford, New Milford, and as far away as East Hartford and Rocky Hill, were treated to dinner and a highly interactive session conducted by a team of professional facilitators from the Capitol Region Emergency Planning Committee. The facilitators bring real-world experience to the workshop: two use motorized wheelchairs, and one employs the use of a service animal.

Also in the audience were Emergency Management Directors, Shelter Managers, Senior Center Directors, public health professionals, EMTs, and firefighters. The agenda included role-playing activities, during which participants were asked to wear earplugs, distortion glasses, and special gloves, to simulate auditory, visual, and physical impairments. Attendees were given Field Guides to augment their knowledge of vulnerable populations, ranging from children with autism to visually impaired senior citizens.

Medical and non-medical volunteers are called upon during disaster response for emergency shelter support, mass dispensing efforts, and disseminating information to the general public. Functional Needs Support Services, which enable people to maintain their independence in a general population emergency shelter, apply to anyone with physical, sensory, cognitive and/or intellectual disabilities. The need for specific services can best be determined by a functional needs assessment. Ideally, the assessment leads to a functional needs registry, whereby individuals voluntarily sign-up before disaster strikes. Volunteers and first responders also need to be apprised of current regulations regarding the treatment of service animals, outlined in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Robin Lucas, Medical Reserve Corps Unit Leader
Pomperaug Health District, 203.264.9616 ext 4

For more information regarding volunteer opportunities with the Medical Reserve Corps, please call Robin Lucas at the Pomperaug Health District, 203.264.9616 or visit