California Wildfires Left Disabled in Peril

Most disaster response systems are designed for people who can walk, run, see, drive, read, hear, speak, and quickly understand and respond to instructions and alerts. Communication, evacuation, and sheltering are key areas in which the disabled elderly, and others with what are known in government and advocacy circles as “access and functional needs,” require special attention. The still-evolving area of disaster preparedness took hold after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 — when nearly three-fourths of those who died in the New Orleans disaster were older than 60 — and captured the attention of California officials two years later after two San Diego County wildfires. It is now viewed with urgency as the state increasingly goes gray, particularly in rural counties. And as ashes smolder, those fires, which collectively burned more than 2,300 homes, are providing lessons on what worked and what didn’t. “If you don’t shine a light on this issue, it just gets overlooked,” said L. Vance Taylor, chief of the Office of Access and Functional Needs at the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services. “This state is just a tinderbox. We know that if this doesn’t get addressed, it’s going to be that much worse tomorrow.” The office was created in 2008 after widespread complaints by the elderly and disabled over the two San Diego County fires.

Source/more: Los Angeles Times

David Wingate is an elder law attorney at the Elder Law Office of David Wingate, LLC. The elder law office services clients with powers of attorneys, living wills, Wills, Trusts, Medicaid and asset protection. The Elder Law office has locations in Frederick and Montgomery Counties, Maryland.

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