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Overnight Shelter Exercise to Help Disabled, Shelter Volunteers Respond Effectively During a Disaster

TAP Into East Brunswick staff

Wednesday, August 20, 2014 • 5:52pm

PISCATAWAY, NJ – The Alliance Center for Independence is hosting an emergency shelter overnight exercise for individuals with disabilities this Friday, August 22 starting at 8 p.m. in the Livingston College Recreation Center, Rutgers University. Approximately 50 adults with disabilities have volunteered to spend a night at the shelter, which will be staffed by an equal number of volunteers from a number of agencies engaged in emergency response operations during disaster.

Participating agencies include the Middlesex County Office of Emergency Management, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the American Red Cross, Rutgers University, local social service agencies and other stakeholders.

This is the first emergency shelter exercise geared towards people with disabilities in the state.

The purpose of the exercise is to familiarize members of the community with disabilities with an overnight shelter experience. At the same time, volunteers who have assisted at shelters during a disaster will have an opportunity to understand and better address the needs of individuals with disabilities should a future disaster occur.

“People with disabilities and access and functional needs often do not evacuate in a safe and timely manner due to their belief that shelter accommodations aren’t suitable for them and shelter staff will not be able to meet their needs,” said FEMA Disability Integration Specialist Madeleine Goldfarb.

Shelter volunteers often are not aware of the specific needs many people with disabilities have and how to meet those needs in an emergency sheltering operation. Through this exercise members of the disability community, local jurisdictions and nonprofit emergency responders can exercise their training, knowledge and protocols in a “real world” situation of operating a general population shelter, including evacuation – with individuals with various disabilities.

This exercise will help to strengthen emergency shelter operations and expose potential weakness in processes and systems that can be evaluated and improved. “We are grateful that county, state and federal agencies have joined ACI in addressing the issues of individuals with disabilities during a disaster,” said Carole Tonks, executive director of the Alliance Center for Independence. “We look forward to a great learning experience.”

The shelter exercise will run from 8 p.m. Friday night, Aug. 22 to 8 a.m. Saturday morning.

Participants who arrive by train will be transported to the Livingston Rec Center from the New Brunswick Train Station via accessible shuttle. Shuttles will be available at the New Brunswick Train Station. Breakfast will be provided.

The Alliance Center for Independence (ACI) recognizes disability as a natural and beautiful part of human diversity. ACI is a 501(c)(3) community-based, grassroots organization that supports and promotes independent living for people with disabilities in Middlesex, Union and Somerset counties in New Jersey. ACI provides information and referral services and develops and implements educational programs and innovative activities that promote activism, peer support, health and wellness, employment and independent living skills for people with disabilities and their allies. ACI supports the philosophy of independent living for all persons with disabilities.

For additional information about the event or about services for the disabled, call the Alliance Center for Independence at (732) 738-4388 or visit their website, www.adacil.org.

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