Six Months After Terrorist Attacks, National Organization on Disability Focuses Attention on Emergency Preparedness


WASHINGTON, March 9 /U.S. Newswire/ -- As the world marks the six month anniversary Monday of the terrorist attacks of September 11, the National Organization on Disability is reiterating its appeal to the nation to keep people with disabilities at the forefront of emergency preparedness planning. The 54 million American men, women and children with disabilities, one-fifth of the population, are the most vulnerable in the event of a disaster. Mobilizing for preparedness can minimize the risks that people with disabilities face.

After meeting with Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge at the White House, N.O.D. sent letters to U.S. Cabinet Officers, governors, and thousands of chief elected county officials and mayors, calling on them to include people with disabilities in their emergency planning. The letters suggest specific courses of action for each group, as outlined in the Disaster Mobilization Initiative of the N.O.D.-led Task Force on Emergency Preparedness and People With Disabilities, which is posted at www.nod.org. Numerous officials have already responded to N.O.D., requesting further information and expressing their commitment to their constituents who have disabilities. Many, including Wyandotte, Mich. Mayor Leonard Sabuda, shared information about how they have already created roles for citizens with disabilities in the preparedness process and are benefiting from their input.

"Several people with severe disabilities, including wheelchair users and a man who is blind, escaped from the World Trade Center," said N.O.D. President Alan A. Reich. "We know this was in part thanks to the extensive drills that they and their coworkers took part in following the 1993 bombing there. Preparedness really makes a huge difference."

When making emergency preparedness plans, N.O.D. stresses both that it is critical to take people with disabilities into account -- and that they should participate actively in the planning. "Emergency preparedness requires resourcefulness, and this the disability community has in abundance. Our experience can be invaluable to emergency planning groups at all levels," said Reich.

According to the American Red Cross, there are 65,000 natural and man-made emergencies each year. The Federal Emergency Management Agency reported 45 major disasters in the U.S. last year. "Emergency preparation will be imperative for the foreseeable future. These preparations are not simply for terrorist attacks, but for any of the thousands of catastrophes that can occur, from building fires to floods. Those of us with disabilities want to be full participants in the process," Reich added.

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The National Organization on Disability, celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2002, promotes the full and equal participation and contribution of America's 54 million men, women and children with disabilities in all aspects of life. For more information about N.O.D.'s programs, visit www.nod.org.
Contact: Brewster Thackeray of the National Organization on Disability, 202-293-5960; Weekends: 703-807-0798 or brewthack(At)aol.com