Accessible Preparedness

State: NY Type: Promising Practice Year: 2020

The Monroe County Department of Public Health, Office of Public Health Preparedness (OPHP) covers Monroe County NY which contains approximately 750,000 residents. 

The public health issue is the lack of emergency preparedness training throughout the community and especially the disability community. Wether through a barrier to education, lack of resources to be prepared, or restricting factors of training classes, the disability community is one of the highest impacted groups during a disaster and one of the least prepared groups.

The world is filled with disasters and emergencies that disrupt our lives and can result in a devastating loss of property, injury, and loss of life. The basic need for everyone, is a sense of security and a stable environment. Without being prepared for an emergency, people are at a high risk of being affected by disasters. Through preparedness training, building emergency plans, and stocking up on emergency items, everyone can build up their personal foundation to increase their odds of survival during some of the worst emergency conditions. 

Monroe County Department of Public Health, Office of Public Health Preparedness (OPHP) has teamed up with the Center for Disability Rights and the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) to develop the Accessible Preparedness Project.

This project is designed to provide specific individual preparedness training to everyone. We focus on how to prepare for your own specific needs and customize your plan and kit to best suit your lifestyle. 

The goals were to make emergency preparedness training accessible to everyone, especially those with access and functional needs, disabilities, and seniors. The training series focused on customized emergency preparedness instead of a general emergency preparedness style that has left people confused about how to address their unique personal needs. 

The practice was implemented with a 6 course series to build up emergency preparedness knowledge, write individual plans, have group discussions on how to overcome obstacles, build emergency kits, and practice using the kits in drill scenarios. There was also a Train-The-Trainer class at the end of the series for those who wanted to become certified to teach emergency preparedness in the community. 

The result was a successful training series that left many people feeling more prepared and empowered to teach others in their community how to get ready for an emergency. 

All of our objectives were met and it was due to many companies, organizations, and volunteers that supported the project and helped to overcome the obstacles we faced. Having interpreting services available at each training and live closed captioning at some of the classes really aided the ability to reach out to and interact with the large deaf community in Rochester. Having partners such as the Center for Disability Rights, National Institute for the Deaf, Niagara University First Responder Disability Awareness Training, and the support of the Monroe County Medical Reserve Corps really led to the success of the program. 

The impact of this program was to make a population most impacted by emergency situations more resilient to them. Many participants shared how they feel less scared in their home and feel more confident in their ability to endure an emergency situation. 

The website for the program is

The practice is in response to the multitude of people dying in disasters and emergencies throughout the country due to a lack of individual emergency preparedess while awaiting aid from local, state, and federal government. The innovation was to make training accessible, customized, and interactive to meet the needs of the individual during a disaster. 

Utilizing the Medical Reserve Corps to help develop, facilitate, and lead sessions was a great way to get the community involved with other community members to help each other build resilience. This is a new program that was designed and developed to reach the gap of more vulnerable populations. 

The goals for this project were to reach the access and functional needs and disabilities community and senior citizens to teach emergency preparedness that is customized to them, as well as, provide them with a emergency preparedness kit fitting their specific needs. 

The steps taken to achieve this goal and implement the program were structured in a project charter outlining the project initiation (brainstorming ideas, gathering stakeholders, media, presentation outline, sponsor buy-in, community collaboration, etc.), planning (risk identification, communications plan, preliminary planning meetings, budget and schedule estimating, etc.), monitor and control (analyzing risk matrix, tracking the schedule and budget to ensure they are within reasonable tolerances, continuously adjusting for unseen circumstances, etc.), and executing (purchasing products for class, reaching out to the Medical Reserve Corps, canvassing the area with advertisement through posters, radio, social media, partnering organizations, and word of mouth, setting up a registration for classes, instructing classes, procuring interpreters for classes, procuring transportation for classes, etc.), and we ended with a train the trainer course to give the Medical Reserve Corps members the ability to go out into the community and give this training to continue this project on a wider scale. 

The initial time frame for the project was one and a half years to complete a six session training series, twice (12 classes), which included a free emergency kit customization class and a train the trainer class providing thumb drives, presentations, materials, and handouts in order to expand the reach of the project throughout the community. There were many stakeholders involved from the center for disability rights, Rochester Institute of Technology, National Institute for the Deaf, Prevention First, Niagara University First Responders Disability Awareness Training, Office for People With Developmental Disabilities, Communication Service for the Deaf, etc. 

Stakeholders aided in the process of creating an inclusive logo outlining class curriculum, advertising to the community, helping provide training locations, equipment, and staff. The project was a great starting point to foster these community relationships and begin to coordinate long-term collaboration. The initial project utilized $12,500 from the NACCHO MRC Challenge Award to purchase supplies, transportation, logo design, and interpreters. The start up cost and continuation costs can be zero by utilizing volunteers and partnering with organizations. It is completely scaleable to meet the resources. Providing customized emergency kits, transportation, and interpreters would be the three areas where funding, donations, volunteers, and agency collaboration would aid the project success. Local transportation allowed us to set up a line of credit with them for transportation cost since transportation could vary from $50 - $500 depending on the type of medical transportation. We also purchased local bus transit passes to mail or hand out participants that needed public transportation two classes. We allocated $300 for the bus passes, which covered transportation for a majority of those who needed it. The sign language interpreters cost around $30/hour and we needed to have two interpreters for each class due to the length of time. $500 was spent on a guest speaker and $500 was spent on logo design for flyers and the website. This design is established and able to be used in any County that would run this program free of charge. 

The evaluation process for the project was initially designed to be in the form of a survey participants would fill out before and after the class to see how prepared they were initially and how prepared they were after the course. This was not the preferred method of evaluation by the participants and did not have the best results since many participants did not fill out the form or did not leave details. We decided to adjust the evaluation and stick to verbal evaluation through discussions during and at the end of each class. This did not provide any quantitative data and it was not conducted in a formal focus group setting. The General consensus was that these classes really helped make the participants feel more prepared and more in control over their safety and security during a possible emergency. There were many participants who expressed fears during the course series realizing they were very vulnerable and did not have answers to how they would survive an emergency situation. Towards the end of the class many of their questions had been addressed, answered, or brainstormed out the best place to get in touch with. This made participants feel more prepared and more resilient for the future. 

Throughout the series of classes, modifications to the verbiage of material, the location of the class, and the level of detail were modified due to feedback from participants. The next iteration of courses will have a stronger focus on evaluation utilizing simplified polling to gain a quantitative analysis and schedule multiple focus groups before and after the classes in order to get more qualitative data. The classes will become more interactive and have an option to be offered as a full one day, 8-hour course, on Saturday, instead of broken up through multiple 2-hour sessions due to feedback of travel and time concerns.

Overall the objectives were sucessfully completed to better prepare the access and functional needs, disability, and senior community for a possible emergency with customized training and emergency kits focused on their individual needs. 

The lessons learned for this project are really focused on better collaboration with local agencies, setting up multiple scheduling options, creating and easy registration form and process that is intuitive, and insuring classes are facilitating an open environment for discussion. Many collaboration Partners were identified later throughout the project which could have aided with fundraising, interpreters, advertising, etc. Doing a deeper analysis into the available agencies and Partnerships in the area before starting classes would have aided in the turnout of participants and the efficiency of resources. 

We learned this is a very difficult community to reach and the harder it is to reach this community, where they are, the more vulnerable those people tend to be. There were many unique challenges in teaching such varying needs, yet, it opened the door of problem solving in ways we never thought of before. People with different disabilities and different social and economic status had so many different perspectives that helped other participants. A large takeaway is the harder and more difficult these classes are to get going, the larger impact they will most likely have on the community. There is sufficient stakeholder commitment to sustain the practice and many stakeholders are very enthusiastic about these classes and sent people from their organization to take the train the trainer course in order to offer it through their organization as well. Organizations have reached out to me about fundraising and providing a training space for future classes. 

At a NACCHO conference