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National Organization on Disability Releases Latest Statistics From Harris Poll

Editor's Note: This item is taken from the National Organization on Disability's website www.nod.org and is dated December 29, 2005.

Washington, DC--Four months after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita ravaged the Gulf Coast and almost five years after September 11th, emergency preparedness in the workplace is on the decline, but personal preparedness for people with disabilities is on the rise, according to a recently released Harris Interactive survey commissioned by the National Organization on Disability's (N.O.D.) Emergency Preparedness Initiative (EPI). Furthermore, the disabled community has yet to experience the comparable decrease in their anxiety levels about their own personal safety that the population without disabilities has experienced, this population reporting a 12% decrease since 2001.

This new survey goes on to report a marked decrease in workplace preparedness for people with disabilities. Survey results reveal that 57% of people with disabilities indicate that they have a workplace plan, a figure that is down from 68% in 2003. "This may not be as bad as it appears," stated Hilary Styron, Director of N.O.D.'s EPI. "Immediately after 9/11 there was a major focus on development of workplace emergency plans for all employees. The decrease we see now may be attributed to fewer training opportunities provided in the workplace, limited-focus planning or lack of communication among emergency planners or task forces within a facility. Workplace emergency planning, just like community emergency planning, is an ongoing process that must include the active participation of people with disabilities."

The new survey found that personal preparedness of people with disabilities is on the rise. Nearly 54% of people with disabilities know whom to contact about emergency plans in their community, up from 44% in 2003. Additionally, 47% of people with disabilities have made plans to safely evacuate their homes, a significant increase from the 2003 survey results of 39%. Many jurisdictions across the country have been concentrating their efforts on training and educating the community in personal preparedness, and working diligently to address the preparedness needs of people with disabilities. There has even been an increase in preparedness of persons without disabilities, with the number at 51% up from 38% in 2003. Styron said, "the increase in personal preparedness is a key factor to reducing the loss of life during a disaster. We are hopeful that these numbers will continue to increase."

Heightened anxiety over personal safety is also on the rise, with 40% of people with disabilities reporting some level of anxiety over recently occurring natural disasters. Michael Deland, President of the National Organization on Disability, believes that the increase in anxiety correlates to the increase of personal preparedness in the disability community. "Results of this new survey show that 59% of people with disabilities rank non-profit organizations as doing an excellent or pretty good job in preparing them for disasters and other emergencies. N.O.D. programs, like EPI and our Community Partnership Program, reach out to the community to help officials and other stakeholders educate people with disabilities on personal preparedness."

Areas of concern for N.O.D. include the statistics surrounding the effort of federal, state and local government, as well as corporations, to prepare people with disabilities for emergencies. Sixty-three percent of people with disabilities believe that the federal government is doing a fair or poor job at preparing them for disasters, while 61% for state government and 59% for local government are both doing fair or poor jobs to prepare people with disabilities. Corporations and business were not immune to strong scrutiny. Sixty-one percent of people with disabilities felt corporations were doing a fair or poor job of preparing the disabled population for disaster response.

Planning Remains Key

The Emergency Preparedness Initiative, organized immediately after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, is designed to help communities, emergency planners and responders and people with disabilities properly prepare for all man-made and natural disasters. EPI is working with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), other government agencies, emergency planners and responders, and the disability community to ensure that adequate plans are in place to accommodate the needs of people with disabilities during future crises.

"It is critical that all plans, response actions and recovery efforts include the unique and varied emergency-specific needs of people with disabilities, the very people who must be involved in the planning process at all levels," said Deland. To become informed and involved, visit www.nod.org/emergency (opens in a new window) where EPI maintains a continuously updated repository of information, publications, links, guides, standards, plans, video clips, and updated research and studies.

This telephone survey was conducted by Harris Interactive among a national cross-section of 1,001 adults aged 18 or over between December 15 and 18, 2005. The sample size for adults with disabilities is 161 and for adults without disabilities is 829.

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