Are We Ready?

Late last night the news came that a terrorist had set off a bomb in Manhattan. Then a second device was found which had not detonated, a pressure-cooker. We are grateful no one died in New York (or New Jersey) in these most recent attempts by persons to gain attention to their cause, disrupt our lives and promote fear over love within our society.

That said, I wonder if, as PWD, we are ready? Last week was the 15th anniversary of the attacks on 9/11. Prior to that, there were bombings of the Twin Towers in 1993. Between 1993 and 2001 very little changed, and the level of change is difficult to determine from the public record.

In 1993 there were no evac-chairs that we are aware of. Persons with mobility issues spent hours, some carried by friends and co-workers, evacuating the towers. In 2001, some seemed to have evac-chairs, some companies claimed there were evac-chairs and some PWD swore there were none on their floor.

The most consistent thing between these two events is that PWD were told to go to a “safe” place — where they all died. It was not “safe”. It is estimated 200 PWD died on 9/11, most in gathering places.

There are some stories which are more well-known than others. John Abruzzo survived, although on his way down, his friends helping him in his evac-chair were told at one point they could leave him in the Tower at a triage unit that had been set up. They refused, and in doing so, saved his life.

After 1993 there was agreement that better plans were needed for PWD, but somewhere between 1993 and 2001 the effort lost traction, not just from within the government effort, but worse, from without our own community.

I don’t disagree that it sucks to plan for emergencies, to think of the potential horrors should we have to face them. But our survival appears to depend mostly on our planning – no one else really understands our needs better than we do ourselves, and no one seems to be able to get their heads around our situation enough to understand the importance of planning for us.

The area impacted by Hurricane Katrina touched the lives of nearly 500,000 PWD. It was really Hurricane Katrina, and the cameras, which brought our situation to light to a great enough extent that legislation was put in place to include us in emergency plans throughout the country.

Annual reports were required to ensure we were being incorporated, and for the first few years they were written on schedule by area of concern for PWD. But today, they are often years apart, despite the legal requirement, and organized by government department (over 25 are responsible for emergency plans which include us). To read them is heart wrenching. Government departments rehashing, duplicating efforts and mostly talking and creating written materials to educate others who are supposed to be planning for us.

Grants to fund emergency planning still don’t seem to require PWD as a bullet point, no penalties seem to be applied when we are excluded. So, what does this mean for us?

It’s ours to do. We must plan for the unthinkable without thought that others will come to save us.

We must educate our neighbors to our needs, how they can help. We must education our families about what they can do to help.

We must tell emergency responders in our communities that we are here and what we need in case of certain emergencies. We must understand what emergencies can impact us – not just the ones that happen regularly in our areas, but the ones that happen once in a thousand years. Most of those are weather related, and they are on the rise.

I will be working on adding links to help us do that. They will be under “Resources”. Emergency Planning links. And, yes, I am one of us. I know I can’t get this all done in a day. Small¬†progress, little motions forward, can make a myriad of difference for those of us with few resources, little energy and very specific requirements. But it can be done.

If I have learned anything in some of my most recent research on this topic, our failure to prepare is equivalent to preparing for suicide. If you read this blog, you know that’s not on my list of things to do today. There is a value in life for me today. I want my actions to reflect this — and for that reason, I must prepare for my own safety in the case of an emergency, via a plan that works for me and my condition.

I suggest you do the same.


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