FEMA Promising Practice: Inclusive Emergency Management Practices in Vermont

FEMA Promising Practice: Inclusive Emergency Management Practices in Vermont

12th November, 2015

On August 28, 2011, the State of Vermont was devastated by Tropical Storm Irene, resulting in several deaths, hundreds of homes destroyed, over a thousand Vermonters displaced, damage to hundreds of businesses and farms, and thousands of roads and bridges being washed out. In the aftermath of this historic natural disaster and with funding made possible by the Vermont Department of Public Safety, Disability Rights Vermont and the Vermont & New Hampshire Valley Region of the American Red Cross worked collaboratively to survey emergency shelters for accessibility and develop emergency planning processes inclusive of people with disabilities and others with access and functional needs in disaster planning, preparedness, response, relief, and recovery efforts. Disability Rights Vermont also provided 8 two-hour trainings to 45 Red Cross volunteers and approximately 25 Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) volunteers on the ADA, disability etiquette, and assisting individuals with disabilities during times of disaster.

Learning Objectives:

  • Describe processes for surveying and adapting emergency shelters to ensure accessibility and sheltering of people with disabilities in an integrated environment.
  • Name best practices for training emergency management staff and volunteers in working effectively with people with disabilities.
  • Identify strategies for building effective partnerships between state governments, emergency preparedness/disaster recovery agencies, and the disability community.


A.J. Ruben has been Supervising Attorney at Disability Rights Vermont (DRVT) since 2002. He and his family live in a rural town in Vermont that was cut off from the rest of the state for eight days during Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 and has worked with DRVT on emergency planning and preparedness issues for people with disabilities ever since.

Tina Wood has been a Senior Investigator/Paralegal with Disability Rights Vermont (DRVT) since 2000 and works mostly within the prisons in Vermont, investigating abuse and neglect allegations, and advocating on behalf of prisoners with disabilities. She has 15 years of experience volunteering in varying local emergency management roles, and currently is a Red Cross Disaster Liaison to the State Emergency Operations Center.

Michelle Bishop is a Disability Advocacy Specialist at the National Disability Rights Network (NRDN). In her role at NDRN, Michelle provides training and technical assistance to the national Protection & Advocacy Network (including DRVT) on inclusive emergency preparedness. She also works collaboratively with NDRN's MOU/MOA partners, FEMA and the Red Cross.