WASHINGTON – U.S. Representatives Jim Langevin (D-RI), Bennie Thompson (D-MS), and Peter King (R-NY) have introduced legislation that would create an advisory committee to improve U.S. emergency preparedness for people with disabilities.
“I understand the extra fear and uncertainty that individuals with disabilities often associate with emergencies – I’ve felt it myself,” said Langevin, co-chair of the Bipartisan Disabilities Caucus. “During disasters, it is critical that we have appropriate equipment, treatments and personnel that reflect the needs of our most vulnerable populations. This legislation will ensure that people with disabilities have a seat at the table during disaster preparedness policy making. After all, people will disabilities need to be included in disaster planning from the outset, not as an afterthought.”
“Disasters affect all populations differently. From Hurricane Katrina to Hurricane Maria last year, it is clear we are not doing enough to protect vulnerable populations, including Americans with disabilities,” said Thompson, Ranking Member of the Committee on Homeland Security. “Having HHS revisit its preparedness planning to include the needs of those with disabilities ensures no one will get left behind. I thank my colleague, Mr. Langevin, for seeing the need for this legislation and for introducing it today.”
“When a disaster strikes, it is imperative that our Federal, State and local officials have the knowledge and a clear plan to ensure the safety of individuals with disabilities,” said King. “I want to commend my good friend Rep. Langevin on this legislation. It is critical.”
This bill would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to establish a 25-member National Advisory Committee on Individuals with Disabilities in All-Hazards Emergencies comprised of federal and local officials with expertise in disability-related policy and at least four individuals with disabilities that have substantial experience in disability inclusive emergency management.
The advisory committee would be charged with evaluating existing policy and providing recommendations to ensure the coordination of care for those with disabilities during disasters.