Access & Functional Needs Populations

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The Health Care Agency (HCA) recognizes that during disasters some people in the community will have difficulty accessing emergency services. Planning and preparedness is necessary to better meet the needs of people with functional needs in the community.

HCA is collaborating with community partners to provide health/risk information to the public by:

  • establishing critical baseline information about at functional needs populations and organizations that serve them
  • identify effective channels of communication for preparedness information and during public disasters

In disaster preparedness, the term functional needs populations is used to define groups whose needs are not fully addressed by the traditional service providers. It also includes groups that may feel they cannot comfortably or safely access and use the standard resources offered in disaster preparedness, response, and recovery. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • those who are physically and/or mentally disabled (bind, cognitive disorders, mobility limitations, deaf and hard of hearing )
  • limited or non-English speaking
  • medically or chemically dependent
  • geographically and culturally isolated
  • frail elderly, and children

The experiences following Hurricane Katrina and local wildfires highlight the need to improve disaster response preparedness and planning for vulnerable populations during a disaster. The type of disaster, the scale, and the length of time individuals are displaced from their homes and normal routines affects the experience of people with special needs.

The Health Care Agency (HCA) is working with other county agencies and community representatives to ensure planning for individuals with functional needs are met during a disaster.

The Health Disaster Management (HDM) Division works toward identifying barriers and current communication needs with individual communities and identifying effective channels of communication that will reach the general public and vulnerable and at risk people during public health threats and emergencies.

HDM’s planning goal is to ensure the inclusion of considerations for language, culture, disability, and medical needs in response planning.

Additional Resources