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Officals Testify No Specific Disaster Plans for Disabled

Monday, March 18, 2013

A federal trial is continuing in the case of disabled New Yorkers, who say the city needs a protocol for evacuating them during disasters, such as Sandy.

During the trial, Fire Department Chief Fred Villani was asked whether the FDNY had plans specific to evacuating the disabled, or whether he was aware of any special guidance from the federal government on dealing with the disabled. For each question, he answered no. In written testimony Villani explained that while the department doesn't keep records specifically about evacuating the disabled,it's something that's done everyday. He said the FDNY uses its experience and training to respond to everyone, whether they're able bodied or in need of special help.

In written testimony, NYPD Captain James Wahlig said that there's no general approach for locating and evacuating people with special needs because each situation is unique. During the trial, Wahlig testified that just prior to Sandy hitting, the NYPD used 30 MTA buses to get people out of flood zones right before the storm hit. The buses followed designated routes. But he couldn't say whether anyone with a wheelchair used the buses.

Disability Rights Advocates, who brought the case, argue that without specific plans, the disabled are at a disadvantage and they allege that some people were put in life threatening situations during Sandy, the most recent disaster. Attorney Shawna Parks gave the example of a man named Kenneth Martinez who was unable to board an evacuation bus because it was too crowded. Parks said the man ended up going back to his ground floor apartment and nearly drowned but was saved by a neighbor.

Editors:

Julianne Welby

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Comments [1]

cassandra floros

Text quoted below is from another comment posted by NPR member. Interesting. The City must take a more forceful role in mandating evacuations with police enforcement. Apparently even an order for mandatory evacuation by the Mayor is insufficient to get people moving. NYPD must ENFORCE the evacuation order and actually escort people out of the homes whether they go voluntarily or not. Also , why do we not Require people with disability to put their contact information, their location and type of disability on a list? In an emergency repsonders will know exactly where to go and remove them to safer ground.
WNYC News

City: Evacuation Rate During Sandy Dangerously Low
Friday, May 03, 2013
By Matthew Schuerman : Editor, WNYC
Only a third of New York City residents in the most vulnerable coastal areas of the city evacuated before Sandy, according to a survey released Friday.

The survey also showed that a sizeable majority — 71 percent — of people in Evacuation Zone A knew about a mandatory order to move to higher ground, but stayed nonetheless. The survey of 509 people has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percent.

Nov. 11 2013 09:54 AM

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