In November 2022, SCIA’s Policy and Advocacy service applied for government funding to create a special project called ‘Disability & Service Provider Emergency Planning & Response Training’, focusing on enhancing disability emergency planning capabilities.

The aim is to develop emergency preparedness in the disability community that will link in with disability service providers and emergency response services.

This would be in the form of helping communities understand who to contact, how to get help, and how to better prepare themselves in the case of an emergency.

Tony Jones, Policy and Advocacy Manager at SCIA for Systemic and Representative Advocacy, said the idea was born out of the experience felt by the COVID-19 Pandemic.

“The COVID-19 pandemic…had a fairly profound effect on people. It affected disability service provision on a daily basis. Support workers caught COVID and that has an impact on getting access to daily support,” he said.

The proposed emergency preparedness project would attempt to lessen the gap for people with disabilities in gaining access to support networks and alternative plans if an emergency were to arise, such as the floods in the Northern Rivers.

Disaster Preparedness for All: Lessons Learned from the Northern Rivers Floods

The Northern Rivers floods in New South Wales in early 2022

Tony notes that it was this natural disaster that acted as catalyst in gaining funding for emergency preparedness training. 

“There’s some concern for those that are people with a disability living in the community who are almost completely reliant on formal funded supports,” he says.

The three primary focuses are the regional areas of the Northern Rivers, Wollongong/Illawarra and the Hunter.

While the project has been formally proposed for funding, Tony notes that the government did not provide a “specific call out.”

“They just let the sector know, though advocacy organisations that funding was opened but it was done in an informal way,” he says. 

Government supported funding is imperative in allowing these types of training programs to progress for the safety of the disability community.

Despite Tony’s belief that there have been steps and strides in emergency preparedness, he stresses that “a lot more work could be done” in not only “targeting people with a disability, but also in the area of disability service providers”.

Tony states that the project will train those to understand “What you need to do, who you can contact for support and doing it before an emergency or a situation comes up, so you’re better prepared.”

Ultimately, the goal is for people with disabilities in these regional communities to have a better understanding of what is required ready themselves for all types of emergencies, including natural disasters.

Written by Sathsara Radaliyagoda.

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