- Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency
- Massachusetts Office on Disability
Media Contact for State Leaders Formalize Partnership to Promote Inclusive Emergency Management For Those Living with Disabilities or Medical Conditions
Sara Porter, Public Information Officer
FRAMINGHAM — Today, the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) and Massachusetts Office on Disability (MOD) signed a memorandum of understanding to formalize a partnership to strengthen access and equity throughout state and local emergency management. The joint effort will elevate the unique needs of individuals with disabilities and medical conditions during each phase of emergency management, including planning, preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 25% of adults in Massachusetts have a disability. Under the new agreement, MOD will serve as a subject matter expert to MEMA and local emergency management personnel on compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and emergency planning considerations for access and functional needs.
A key outcome of the partnership is establishing the first Access and Function Needs (AFN) Officer position within the State Emergency Operations Center at MEMA headquarters. During an activation, the AFN Officer will serve as a member of the Command Staff, serving as a voice for the disability community during state-coordinated emergency response.
“Our Administration remains dedicated to ensuring all policies and practices center on our deeply held values of equity, inclusion, and accessibility,” said Governor Maura Healey. “I commend MEMA and MOD for their leadership in advancing strategies that lift the needs of our disability community and reduce disparate impacts too often felt by our most vulnerable residents. This innovative partnership represents our continued commitment to making every aspect of our work equitable and accessible for all.”
“The formalized partnership between MEMA and MOD is a meaningful step toward ensuring that our Commonwealth’s preparedness and resiliency plans are designed to meet the needs of all people,” said Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll. “Inclusive emergency management and a whole community approach is fundamental to our ability to succeed when preparing for, responding to, and protecting against any hazard we might face.”
“A disaster can impact anyone, but we know that nearly all disasters disproportionately impact individuals with disabilities,” said MEMA Director Dawn Brantley. “I’m deeply grateful to the team at MOD for partnering with us to ensure that the needs of the disability community are adequately represented in our operational plans and that, if a disaster does occur, we have subject matter expertise at the table in the State Emergency Operations Center.”
“The Massachusetts Office on Disability has a seat on the 9-1-1 Commission and, since 2007, has offered personal Emergency Preparedness program for people with disabilities,” said MOD Executive Director Mary Mahon McCauley. “MOD has also worked closely with the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, and I am pleased that we are now formalizing our partnership to ensure that the individuals with disabilities in Massachusetts get the access and services necessary during any emergency. I am looking forward to the continued collaboration between our agencies.”
Individuals may require assistance with supports or accommodations for communications, maintenance of health, maintenance of independence, safety, and self-determination, and accessible transportation. These needs must be both understood and accounted for due to the necessity of timely actions and communication with the public during an emergency.
MEMA provides many unique resources to promote accessible emergency management at the state and local levels, including the interactive Population Vulnerability Data Map available online in MEMA’s Geospatial Resource Center. The AFN Officer will use the map to provide guidance to impacted communities during an emergency. The map also serves as a helpful tool for state and local planning, response, and recovery by identifying geographic areas with populations most likely in need of support before, during and after a hazardous event due to social factors, including poverty, lack of vehicle access, age, and disability.
Constituents living with a disability or medical condition are also encouraged to explore resources offered by the State 911 Department, including the Massachusetts Disability Indicator Program, which alerts first responders that an individual with a disability may have unique safety, communications, or other needs in case of an emergency as well as the Massachusetts Equipment Distribution Program (MassEDP) which delivers specialized telephones to eligible individuals.