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Phoenix Prepares Emergency Plan Focusing On People With Disabilities

Red Cross cots
(Photo by Kathy Ritchie - KJZZ)
Cots are lined up inside a gymnasium at the Paradise Valley Community Center in Phoenix

For more than a year, the City of Phoenix has been preparing for the worst, and its focusing specifically on people with disabilities. Now, the City of Phoenix is putting its plan to the test.

Dozens of cots are lined up inside a gymnasium at the Paradise Valley Community Center in Phoenix.  In another room, Red Cross volunteers are handing out food and water. This exercise will test the city’s emergency preparedness plan for the access and functional needs community.
“Because we’ve been working so hard to include this group and in recognizing past performance with Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy, they left people behind. We are so committed that we will not leave anyone behind,” said Lisa Jones is the Phoenix Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.
And because that community is so diverse, “We need to be adaptive and flexible to say 'you need this, we’re going to take you over here and get you that,'” Jones said.

She said the plan takes those different needs, like the use of a service animal or wheelchair, into account.
Ray Morris is standing in a crowded room of volunteers. Morris was part of the city’s earlier conversations with stakeholders. His son has autism and Morris wanted to make sure the city could duplicate a healthy environment in the event of an emergency, so far he’s encouraged.

“It’s sort of like watching your child learn to begin to walk," Morris said. "They’re going to take a couple steps it’s all exciting, they’re going to fall… but you know with time, they’re eventually going to be running. So this is one of the first steps.”

Once the City completes today’s exercise, it will go back to the table to see what worked and what needs improving and update the plan as needed.

Kathy Ritchie has 20 years of experience reporting and writing stories for national and local media outlets — nearly a decade of it has been spent in public media.