The Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies Update

Dec 12, 2017 -- Posted by : admin

Portlight Disaster Strategies


August 2017 - November 2017

We Need Your Continued Support!


The Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies (the Partnership) and Portlight Inclusive Disaster Strategies (Portlight) have continued our active support for disaster impacted individuals and communities throughout the catastrophic storms and fires of late summer and fall.

The Partnership and Portlight have assisted thousands of disaster survivors with disabilities, their families and the many generous people trying to help in the wake of hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria, the catastrophic flooding and the challenging relief efforts that followed. We have concurrently supported disability leaders responding to the California wildfires.

With your support, we maintained clear focus on our core mission: Equal access and full inclusion for the whole community before, during and after disasters. In addition to our relief efforts, led by Portlight, the coordinating efforts of the Partnership are focused on building a national infrastructure to prepare for all disasters to follow, driving transformational policy changes and engaging and supporting disability stakeholders and disability led organizations in leadership roles.

Our work always assumes the adage "nothing about us without us" and we are committed to involving disability organizations throughout engagement, training, tools, technical assistance, employment and leadership development and all aspects of our work.

Our efforts continue.

Since August, the Partnership has been hosting daily national and disaster-specific stakeholder meetings to coordinate disability inclusive disaster response, relief and recovery efforts. Our Hotline - (800) 626-4959, operated by a dedicated volunteer network of disability experts, has received thousands of calls for immediate, urgent assistance for rescue, medical, health maintenance and disability assistance, medical equipment and assistive device replacement, help navigating local, state and Federal assistance programs, short term housing solutions, and a host of other immediate issues impacting disaster survivors with access and functional needs. Our hotline volunteers have responded to every request for assistance and they are utilizing a case coordination system designed specifically for our needs and a robust Resource Library to continue to expand our capacity to receive, address and resolve all calls. Proudly, we have been able to resolve well over 86% of our Hotline calls.

We are working in support of local disability organizations, and we are guided by their knowledge of the needs and preferences of their community. We have provided financial support to disability led organizations in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands and California and we deployed teams to Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. We have also supplemented staffing to meet immediate evacuation and sheltering needs in GA and SC as hurricanes first made landfall in their states.

On the ground in the hardest hit areas, our teams were often the first help to arrive. They identified immediate needs, brought lifesaving and life sustaining supplies to disaster survivors and resource solutions for reestablishing local disability led organizations. Our teams led efforts to rescue people with disabilities and older adults in dire need, delivered food and water, made wellness checks, provided medical supplies, generators, disability equipment, communication devices, water purification, satellite and cell phones and other items for meeting immediate needs. We continue to work to get more life sustaining items shipped and delivered to people who need them the most. We are also supporting the process of getting students with disabilities back to school. Concurrently, we are actively supporting equal access to emergency programs and services for children and adults with disabilities who were evacuated within their state and from US territories to continental US locations.

We have enjoyed daily active involvement from Partnership members and national organizations including: National Council on Independent Living, Association of Programs in Rural Independent Living, Pass it On Center, Association of University Centers on Disabilities, Disaster Accountability Project, ADAPT, Independent Living Research Utilization, American Association of People with Disabilities and Paralyzed Veterans of America as well as American Red Cross and DHS Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.

Notable Events and Accomplishments during this period:

  • Each disaster had its own challenges. Hurricane Harvey flooding was so severe that water rescue was urgently needed for many days. We are grateful for our partnership with the Cajun Navy. Our Hotline received hundreds of requests for emergency rescue. Thanks to Cajun Navy dispatcher Katie Pichon and her amazing ground team, we were able to support water rescues of hundreds of nursing home residents and individuals with access and functional needs living in the community.
  • In addition to water rescue, the Cajun Navy also assisted us in getting lifesaving medication from one child who had a few extra doses to a 9-year-old boy with epilepsy whose family was cut off from all ground transportation by the flooding in the Beaumont, TX area. They also air dropped specialty formula that was desperately needed for several infants in a flood impacted hospital neonatal intensive care unit and several children at home without the G-tube formula they needed.

Air Drop 1

Air Drop 2

Urgently needed seizure medication for a 9 year old is air dropped by the Cajun Navy from a helicopter in the Beaumont, TX area, cut off from ground transportation by flooding from hurricane Harvey.


  • Trach Mommas has continued to enhance the strength and reach of the Partnership by developing creative solutions for acquiring and shipping generators, portable oxygen concentrators, pediatric and adult durable medical equipment, assistive devices and consumable medical supplies to all disaster impacted areas. Notably the team has developed successful solutions for shipping these supplies to Puerto Rico and USVI when seemingly very few supplies were reaching the ports or beyond them to disaster survivors.

We continue to work to get more of these life sustaining items shipped and delivered to people who need them most.


Supply boxes

Trach Mommas of Louisiana received the ‘2017 Louisiana Governors Outstanding Leadership in Disabilities Volunteer Award’. Governor John Bel Edwards Louisiana presented this award to Trach Mommas founders Jessica Michot and Angela Lorio. We could not be prouder of these two members of our team, their growing national leadership and their dedication, commitment and hard work serving disaster survivors and children with complex health needs.

  • The National Council on Independent Living and their Emergency Preparedness Sub Committee have partnered with us every step of the way. Most notably, we have shared Sarah Blahovec’s expanded role in collecting and supporting media initiatives to tell the stories of disaster survivors with disabilities and disability organizations.

Our impact in the hardest hit areas of Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands would not have been possible without the incredible commitment of our ground teams. Thanks to our partnerships with NCIL and ADAPT, and the generosity of our supporters, we were able to deploy Todd Holloway and Alex Mitchell to St Thomas, and German Parodi, Stephanie Woodward, Shaylin Sluzalis and Wilfredo Rodriguez to Puerto Rico.

Here is a video of the team at work in Puerto Rico, thanks to the contributions of Rooted in Rights:

In his after-action report upon his return from the US Virgin Islands, Todd Holloway recalled meeting the Director of USVI’s Office of Disability Rights, Felecia Brownlow. “The thing that had such a profound impact on me was what I saw in her eyes. She is a genuine caring humanitarian who cares for others regardless of personal impact. She was so grateful that Portlight and NCIL would send teams to witness their reality. I already knew that she had great losses of her own. She did not talk about that. What I felt from her heart and her eyes was an enormous sense of sorrow and anguish for everyone”.

Our partnership with the Pass It On Center and GA Tech has helped us all to build a national technology solution for identifying, compiling and tracking fulfillment of immediate and ongoing durable medical equipment and assistive device needs of disaster survivors. Pass It On has been leading daily coordination calls to identify and address the end to end process for meeting these often-urgent needs of disaster survivors with access and functional needs for maintaining their health, safety and independence. Thousands of individual and bulk requests have been fulfilled because of the active participation of disability organizations, manufacturers, businesses and generous donors. And, this highly successful partnership has built a technology solution that we will continue to refine for meeting future disaster relief needs.

On September 20th, Paul Timmons, Board Chair of Portlight Inclusive Disaster Strategies provided testimony to the US Senate Special Committee on Aging, bringing to light the impact of disasters on older adults and individuals with disabilities, and recommending a number of recommendations for improving whole community preparedness, response, recovery and mitigation. Paul’s written and oral communication can be found here:

  • Marcie Roth, CEO of the Partnership was recently awarded ‘The Abe Zelmanowitz Humanitarian Award’ by Concepts of Independence, Inc. in New York City. The award was named for Abe Zelmanowitz, who stayed with his friend and co-worker Ed Beyea who happened to be quadriplegic and unable to evacuate the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Both men, along with NYFD firefighter Captain Billy Burke, who was with them, perished in the collapse of the twin towers. In this award, Abe is remembered for his bravery and humanity. Marcie was recognized “For creating and implementing disaster response policies and practices nationwide that treat every single life as precious, which ensures people with disabilities the opportunity to live and thrive”. Portlight Board President, Paul Timmons is a previous Zelmanowitz awardee, as well.
    • The Partnership and Portlight have been working closely with many media outlets who are telling the stories of children and adults with disabilities and the disproportionate impact they experience when community planning is inadequate and emergency programs and services are not accessible to all.

    Recent media coverage of the work of Portlight and the Partnership includes:

    We appreciate the ongoing dedication of the FEMA Disability Integration Advisors who have repeatedly deployed to austere environments and served throughout the series of catastrophic events with an unwavering commitment to the civil rights of disaster survivors with disabilities.

    Partnerships are truly what we are all about. Here are some examples of our collaborative efforts to improve disability inclusive emergency management.

    Our State Government Inclusive Disaster Leadership Strategies Group continues to work together. They are providing valuable input into the design of our March 2018 National Getting It Right Conference.

    We recently contributed to a disability inclusive disaster risk reduction initiative the World Bank is leading and we are participating in the Inter-Agency Standing Committee Task Team on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action

    We have been contributing to FEMA’s update of the 2010 Functional Needs Support Services guidance and the next National Level Exercise.

    The Partnership enjoys a close relationship with Save the Childrenand our shared commitment to the access and functional needs of children before, during and after disasters. We are collaborating on legislative initiatives, policy development and other activities of mutual interest.

    We are developing new relationships with climate justice leaders, expanding our knowledge of each other’s’ missions and our inter-sectional partnership opportunities.
    We are also building collaborative partnership opportunities with Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School, the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, the Bill Anderson Fund,Team Rubicon, Healthcare Ready, University of Colorado Boulder — Natural Hazards Center and the University of Delaware Disaster Research Center.

    Some of our recent workshops and webinars include:

    • “Disasters and Equity: Race, Gender and Ability”
    • “Preparing for Disasters: CMS Emergency Preparedness Rules for Intermediate Care Facilities for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities”
    • “Universal Accessibility in Emergency Management”
    • “Pandemic and All Hazards Preparedness Act Reauthorization: Opportunities for Improving Whole Community Inclusion”
    • Focus Groups for “Citywide Evacuation Preparedness”

    What’s Next from the Partnership?

    National “Getting It Right Conference
    March 14 – 16, 2018
    Washington, DC
    Details to follow

    • Our websites are getting a much-needed overhaul! We appreciate the college students from California State University - Long Beach! They have taken on the task of re-imagining the and websites, with a primary focus on accessibility and ease of use. Look for our fresh look and more importantly enhanced and refreshed content, educational information, events and updates coming soon.

    2017 Disaster Impacts on Individuals with Access and Functional Needs and Communities
    The Partnership is leading the development of a thorough and detailed 2017 After Action Report, bringing together the voices and experiences of individuals, organizations and communities impacted by the 2017 hurricanes and wildfires.

    In addition to our National Getting It Right Conference in March, we are currently collaborating with disability inclusive emergency management leaders in several states to bring our very popular workshops to local and state stakeholders. Our recent “Getting It Right California” workshops, drew an audience of over 300 participants and was followed by the development of a very successful statewide disability inclusive emergency management coalition led by Ana Acton and the CA Foundation for Independent Living Centers.
    Announcements for each of these workshops will be announcements as dates are confirmed.

    • Listen for a new song about the impact of disasters on people with disabilities, thanks to brilliant songwriters, performers and community leaders called 4 Wheel City.

    Your Support

    Portlight and The Partnership have been gratified by your support for our work We have enjoyed generous support from many, many individual sources who have made our initiatives possible. Your individual donations provide the backbone of our daily work and fuel our efforts. We cannot be more thankful!

    We’ve also received several grants and donations of products and services specifically directed to support our initiatives.

    ANTHEM – Anthem, Inc. is one of the largest health benefits companies in the United States. Through its affiliated health plans, Anthem companies deliver a number of leading health benefit solutions.
    Anthem has a long history of supporting Portlight and our disaster relief efforts. As soon as the Partnership and Portlight began responding in August, Anthem offered financial support that made it possible for us to begin providing assistance to disaster survivors in TX. They have continued to provide generous support for our relief efforts, both current and future. Anthem partnered with us to address the immediate needs of their members, and also generously made their nurse hotline and telemedicine programs available to all disaster survivors, extending far beyond their members to supplement the urgent health related needs in impacted communities with limited medical resources.

    AT&T – provided communication solutions by donating over 500 Samsung smartphones with SIM cards to be distributed to disaster survivors with disabilities to improve their effective communication access, replace damaged and lost phones and increase communication between family members, health care and service providers and emergency programs.

    FAWCO Alumnae USA – We received the “Annual Philanthropic Development Grant for 2017”. The grant was awarded to “assist an organization actively involved in hurricane recovery. Portlight was voted as the charity to receive this Grant and is their banner project for the next year.” FAWCO is the alumnae arm of the Federation of American Women’s Clubs Overseas, an international network of independent volunteer clubs and associations consisting of around 80 member clubs in 38 countries, with a total membership in excess of 15,000.

    KESSLER FOUNDATION – Kessler Foundation strives to improve the lives of people with physical and cognitive disabilities caused by stroke, multiple sclerosis, brain and spinal cord injury, and other chronic neurologic and musculoskeletal conditions. Their mission is to improve quality of life for people with disabilities through discovery, innovation, demonstration, application, and dissemination. Kessler Foundation’s generous grant is supporting our direct support of disability organizations in meeting the relief and recovery needs of disaster survivors with disabilities across Puerto Rico.

    MITSUBISHI ELECTRIC AMERICA FOUNDATION – the philanthropic arm of Mitsubishi Electric US focuses on placement of youth with disabilities into the workforce. MEAF provided a substantial grant specifically for our relief efforts in Puerto Rico.

    PRESIDENT DONALD J. TRUMP AND FIRST LADY MELANIA TRUMP provided a generous personal donation in support of our civil rights initiatives after Hurricane Harvey.

    We were excited to receive a donation from PAUL SIMON & EDIE BRICKELL specifically for Puerto Rico relief and recovery efforts. When Paul Simon called Paul Timmons, Paul shared what many of us believe, as well… that Paul Simon has written the soundtrack of our lives. Having his and Edie’s support is truly meaningful.

    No effort is too large or small if it comes from the heart. We would love to share the generosity and wonderful stories of many individual donors. One that we especially enjoyed was from a group of students in Massachusetts who set up a weekend lemonade stand and raised an outstanding amount of good will and donations to support our hurricane Harvey relief efforts.


    In addition to our support for individuals and local organizations, we also use your donations to support the disaster work of our national partners and focused advocacy efforts towards meeting the disaster related civil rights issues of individuals with disabilities and disaster impacted communities.

    Your assistance is still urgently needed, truly appreciated and always used where it’s needed most. Please consider supporting us on Giving Tuesday (November 28), in your year-end giving or any time the spirit moves you.

    Portlight Website



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