The Independence Center and The Rocky Mountain ADA Center Release Waldo Canyon Fire Forum Report

Colorado Springs, Colo., Nov. 2, 2012 – The Independence Center (The IC) and the Rocky Mountain ADA Center (ADA Center) released their After Action Report, a report of key findings from the Waldo Canyon public forum co-hosted by the organizations on Aug. 30, 2012.

Those who attended the forum included officials from the Colorado Springs Office of Emergency Management Division, the Manitou Springs Police Department and the Red Cross, and people with disabilities and their families who were affected by the fire. The goal of the forum was to collect information from people with disabilities and their families to help emergency response teams improve their existing processes and update their current emergency plans to better address the needs of people with disabilities.

“We are very pleased with this report,” said Patricia Yeager, CEO of The Independence Center. “It is a valuable tool that the city and county can use to make their emergency plans more comprehensive. It is information we didn’t have before, first-hand testimony on what worked and didn’t for people in our community with various disabilities.”

The After Action Report summarizes the views shared by the public at the forum and includes suggestions for emergency planners around the issues of communication, transportation and shelter access. The report also highlights the need for individuals and their families to create an emergency plan for themselves.

“One of the primary messages shared by people at the forum is that few individuals are personally prepared for disaster,” said Jana Burke, project director of the ADA Center. “The Waldo Canyon event reminds all of us, with and without disabilities, that we need to be prepared for emergencies before they occur. People with disabilities need to self-advocate, make sure they are prepared and have their personal emergency plan and communication plans put together.”

The IC and the ADA Center plan to utilize this informative report in various capacities, including:

  • Working with local Deaf and Hard of Hearing advocates to share the report with local TV stations so they can take these findings into consideration when determining how to best make their broadcasts accessible to persons with disabilities during an emergency.
  • Working with the Red Cross to identify shelter locations that are accessible and welcoming to all.
  • Working with first responders to address the needs of people with a wide variety of disabilities when it comes to emergency response and evacuation procedures.

“We are not here to blame anyone,” Yeager points out.  “We simply want to work with city and county planners to develop more inclusive plans so that we can ensure the needs of all of our community members are met in future disasters.”

The IC and ADA Center have already begun working with local emergency operations personnel to integrate these findings in city and county emergency operations plans. The ADA Center is working with El Paso County review their emergency plan for ADA compliance. After the review is completed, the County has indicated they will work with members of the disability community to address any accessibility barriers identified in the plan.

The review is available online at http://adainformation.org/emergency-management.