Understanding the needs of a community is imperative in order to effectively organize natural disaster emergency response. As people begin to assess the damage caused by Hurricane Laura, national, state and local community emergency planners and response teams are working to provide support for thousands of people who have evacuated or have sustained damage to their homes. People with disabilities are one of many vulnerable groups especially at risk during natural disasters.
People with disabilities: According to the American Community Survey, about 41 million, or 13%, of Americans have at least one type of disability (ACS 2015). The vast majority (38 million) live in households with other people and a significant number of people with disabilities live in group quarters, which includes dormitories, nursing homes, and prisons.
People without disabilities: Approximately 78 million people without disabilities live in households with a member who experiences a disability. This means that nearly 25% of the US population lives in a household with a member with a disability.
(See Prevalence of Disability: Individual and Household Context for more about this research).
As well, a significant number of people with disabilities live in group quarters, which include dormitories, nursing homes, and prisons. (See COVID-19: An increased threat to people with disabilities living in rural institutions and the map showing percent of the population institutionalized).
Maps: People with Disabilities in the path of Laura
Disability in America: People with Disabilities
In the areas at most risk from Hurricane Laura, there are particularly high rates of disability at the county level. This map shows disability rates by county across the U.S.
These next two maps show disability rates in the counties that are in the path of Hurricane Laura, as well as the number of people with disabilities in the path of Hurricane Laura.
Number of people with disabilities in the path of Hurricane Laura
This map shows the number of people, by county, estimated by the American Community Survey to have disabilities living in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Population is broken into five levels: 11 to 8,300 individuals, 8,301 to 27,000 individuals, 27,001 to 62,000 individuals, 62,001 to 112,000 individuals and 112,001 to 414,213 individuals. Darker maroon indicates a higher population. The areas with the highest numbers of people with disabilities are the major urban areas in each state, which includes many people along the Gulf Coast. In Louisiana and Mississippi, most of the counties along the Gulf have 8,301 to 62,000 people with disabilities. Along the Texas coast, Houston, Corpus Christi, McAllen, and Brownsville are all in counties with higher numbers, of 62,001 to 414,213 people with disabilities.
Rates of people with disabilities in the path of Hurricane Laura
The map above shows the percent of people, by county, estimated by the ACS to have disabilities in the states of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Disability rates are broken into five levels: 3.8 to 11.9%, 12.0 to 15.6%, 15.7 to 19.0%, 19.1 to 22.7%, and 22.8 to 32.7%. There tend to be higher rates of disability in rural areas, especially in Arkansas and Mississippi. The majority of counties in Arkansas have rates of 19.1 to 22.7% or 22.8 to 32.7%. Many counties with high rates are just inland of the coast.
For maps showing disability rates in each of those individual states, see our State Profile Maps:
Rural emergency prep and response
Emergency preparedness and response in rural areas puts an added stress on already often resource-scarce communities, especially when combined with meeting the needs of people with disabilities. See the Rural Health Information Hub’s Rural Emergency Preparedness and Response for more information on emergency prep in rural areas.
National emergency prep resources
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) works with national disability groups to make sure that emergency plans and shelters are inclusive and accessible. FEMA’s Office of Disability Integration and Coordination created a document titled Guidance on Planning for Integration of Functional Needs Support Services in General Population Shelters to help emergency and shelter planners meet access and functional needs in general population shelters.
To report a concern or complaint of discrimination to FEMA:
- Call FEMA at 202-212-3535 and press 1 for Civil Rights
- Send an email to: FEMA-CivilRightsOffice@fema.dhs.gov
- Send a letter explaining the issue to: FEMA OFFICE OF EQUAL RIGHTS, Civil Rights Section 500 C Street, SW, Room 4SW-0915, Washington, DC 20472-3505
For other resources and information, see:
- From Ready.Gov- general hurricane information, including how to prepare, stay safe during a hurricane, what to do when you return home, and other information.
- From Ready.Gov- information for individuals with disabilities on emergency planning, including specific recommendations for those with different impairment types.
- From ASL Services, their 2020 Hurricane Guide interpreted in ASL
- From National Mass Care Strategy- Accessibility & Inclusive Resources, including an ADA checklist for emergency shelters, planning guides, and examples of legal precedence, and industry best practices.
COVID-19 and hurricanes
- From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention- Hurricanes and COVID-19: information on preparing, evacuating, staying with family and friends, and how to stay safe after a hurricane.
- From the American Red Cross- Non-congregate shelter accessibility checklist. Provides a basic accessibility assessment for hotels/motels that are being used as non-congregate shelter sites during COVID-19.
Hurricane Laura links and resources:
- FEMA Hurricane Laura resources and information
- The Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies Disaster Hotline: Phone: (800) 626-4959 ; Email: email@example.com. The Partnership’s Disaster Hotline provides information, referrals, guidance, technical assistance and resources to people with disabilities, their families, allies, organizations assisting disaster impacted individuals with disabilities and others seeking assistance with immediate and urgent disaster related needs.
- NPR’s Hurricane Laura Live Updates: Live news coverage of Hurricane Laura
- From the Louisiana Office of the Governor: Hurricane Laura Resources
- From the Office of the Texas Governor: Texas Hurricane Center
Hurricane Laura power outage maps:
- From data.theadvertiser.com- Laura and Marco power outages for Parts of Texas, most of Louisiana, parts of Arkansas
- From PowerOutage.US: Texas
- From PowerOutage.US: Arkansas
For more information on people with disabilities and emergency disaster response, see:
- RTC:Rural blog post: Resources for inclusive emergency prep and response, Sept. 6, 2017
- Organization: Portlight Inclusive Disaster Strategies
- Rooted In Rights article: Why Involving Disabled People in Disaster Planning Saves Lives, Oct. 2, 2017
- Temple Collaborative on Community Inclusion trainer’s guide: Helping People with Mental Health Conditions Prepare for Disasters