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Community Planning Toolkit for State Emergency Preparedness Managers


Welcome to the Planning Toolkit for State Emergency Preparedness managers. Following September 11, 2001, a mandate was created for the development of a National Response Plan (NRP) as a guide to operations for response to a national disaster event. The NRP outlined the management, operations and responsibilities of federal, state and local governments. The NRP recognized that populations at special or high risk in a disaster situation require special assistance and attention. Generally, aging adults, young children, persons with disabilities, and persons with chronic medical conditions are referred to in the NRP as populations at high risk.

On July 26, 2004, Executive Order 13347 was issued in order to "strengthen emergency preparedness with respect to individuals with disabilities."1 It became a policy of the Federal Government to ensure the supports needed by individuals with disabilities are integrated into emergency preparedness planning and implementation of emergency preparedness plans by Federal, State, local, and Tribal governments and private organizations.

In the past 10 years, After Action Reports (9/11, the California wildfires, and Hurricane Andrew reports) issued by government agencies and disability consumer organizations identified systemic weaknesses in how persons with disabilities were accounted for and managed in emergency preparedness plans. Reports subsequent to the 2005-hurricane season, as well as the recent White House report entitled The Federal Response to Hurricane Katrina: Lessons Learned, document the continued existence of these problems. Yet, these recommendations have not resulted in authoritative guidance on how best to obtain and reflect the needs of persons with disabilities in state emergency preparedness plans.2

To address this gap, many disability and disability rights organizations have produced guidelines, checklists, workbooks, community toolkits, training modules, and information documents for emergency planners, first responders, and persons with disabilities on how to prepare communities and individuals to address the needs of persons with disabilities as a part of emergency preparedness planning. However, a review of the literature shows that no one toolkit or planning document is sufficiently comprehensive; for example, a toolkit may not include all four stages of an emergency—preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation.

In 2008, the NRP was updated and became the National Response Framework, a set of guidelines for responding to man-made and natural catastrophic events. This Planning Toolkit will endeavor to bridge a portion of that gap in knowledge. The main focus of this toolkit is to serve as a support to state, local and tribal emergency planners to better prepare these entities for all types of disasters; however, the Planning Toolkit is available to all those who would like to access it. Bear in mind the information contained in this website is large in volume therefore the level of usage is left up to the reader and the intent is for reference, not a "how to" manual.

How to use this toolkit

Emergency planners may use the guidance in the toolkit to plan for a range of potential hazards affecting individuals with disabilities 3. Certain events, like a hurricane or nerve agent release, will require an evacuation. Others events, like tornado or pandemic influenza, may require sheltering at a home, school, or place of work. The area and duration of an evacuation or shelter-in-place order will depend on the event. Many emergencies will require a combination of evacuation and sheltering-in-place during the course of the event.

This toolkit has divided the guidance by evacuation or shelter-in-place events. Each division suggests ways that planners can address people with disabilities who may need assistance in a disaster. The divisions are organized by the following needs-based categories:

Within each category of limitation, the planning guidance is broken down into planning considerations for the four stages of emergency management: Preparedness, Response, Recovery, and Mitigation. These terms describe the process through which emergency managers prepare for emergencies and disasters, respond to them when they occur, help people and institutions recover from them, mitigate their effects, reduce the risk of loss, and prevent future disasters.

To begin, explore the general tips section. This page contains important steps for planners regardless of the hazard for which they are planning.

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Contact the Office on Disability

If you have comments or questions on the content of this site, please contact the Office on Disability at

Learn more about Emergency Planning and Special Needs Populations

To learn more, FEMA's Emergency Management Institute offers Course IS-197.SP: Special Needs Planning Considerations for Service and Support Providers. This course is for emergency planners and response personnel on the state and local level who could benefit from additional training. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps Officers and Government Employees assigned to the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Secretary, Office of the Assistant Secretary For Preparedness and Response are encouraged to use this course to satisfy related training requirements. All other toolkit users all welcome to take this course as well, as it is available to the public.


1 Bush, George W. Individuals with Disabilities in Emergency Preparedness, Executive Order 13347. Federal Register/ Vol.69, No 142/ Monday, July 26, 2004 (back)
2 National Council on Disability. Saving Lives: Including People with Disabilities in Emergency Planning. National Council on Disability: Washington DC, April 15, 2005. Page 11. (back)
3 In the emergency preparedness environment the terms special needs, persons with disabilities, and at-risk populations are used. While these terms have similar meanings, they are not wholly interchangeable. This toolkit addresses special needs populations or at-risk populations, with particular emphasis on persons with disabilities (using whatever term is appropriate in the given context in the Toolkit). (back)