The Disabled Rights Advocates group has filed a class action lawsuit against the city of New York. The organization claims that approximately 900,000 disabled New Yorkers were left out of the city's disaster preparedness plans and suffered as a result.
The suit was first filed after Tropical Storm Irene in September 2011, reports The New York Times. However, the Disabled Rights Advocates group claims that many of the issues disabled citizens faced in the first storm were also present during Hurricane Sandy.
New York Public Radio reports that lawyers for the group claim that the trial will highlight problems that occurred during both storms, including the alleged failure to locate and rescue citizens who were in wheelchairs or unable to move – leaving people trapped in public housing high rises across the city. The group also claims that the transportation system charged with picking up and transporting the disabled left many people stranded. This is in addition to the number of emergency evacuation shelters that were found to not be wheelchair accessible.
Overall, the group charges that the city did not have adequate public safety measures in place to handle the evacuation of the hundreds of thousand of disabled persons across the metro. According to the news source, lawyers defending the city claim that the allegations are false and they would "vigorously defend" the case at trial.
"The city's emergency preparedness plans were carefully developed to serve all New Yorkers – including people with disabilities, whose needs were integrated into every stage of emergency planning," said Senior Counsel Martha Calhoun in a written statement, according to the news source.
Lawyers for the Disability Rights Advocates claim that the group does not want monetary damages paid, but would rather see the city improve its current disaster strategies and plan for the needs of the disabled, according to EMS Today.
Emergency response training, especially for an area the size of New York City, is extremely complex. First responders and evacuation services are all ready and waiting, but without the right training and the right plan in place, efforts can lack effectiveness. Identifying who goes where and when is crucial in the midst of such a confusing time making special needs registries a vital component of any emergency plan. Tracking who is trained to deal with disabled victims including listing specific skills such as responders who are trained for rescue of mobility restricted individuals is vital. Having the information readily available, allows those in charge of first response teams to accurately direct the right responder to the situation they are best suited for ensuring our special needs populations can be supported during a crisis.
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