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Addressing Special Needs

Key Definition

Special Needs Population: A population whose members may have additional needs before, during, and after an incident in functional areas, including but not limited to: maintaining independence, communication, transportation, supervision, and medical care. Individuals in need of additional response assistance may include those who have disabilities; who are from diverse cultures, who have limited English proficiency, who are non-English-speaking; or who are transportation disadvantaged.


Click on a link below to access tools and resources to consider when addressing students and staff with special needs.

Guides and Publications

Preparing for Disaster for People With Disabilities and Other Special Needs – FEMA (TXT)

This FEMA document addresses the challenges that emergencies such as fires, floods, and acts of terrorism present for Americans with special needs. This booklet provides tips, tools, and information to help persons with disabilities prepare for incidents and emergencies.

Practical Information on Crisis Planning: A Guide for Schools and Communities

This publication outlines steps and information to consider when developing a school emergency operations plan.

An Investigation of Best Practices for Evacuating and Sheltering Individuals With Special Needs and Disabilities – National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities

This investigative study highlights best practices in school building design for accommodating the evacuation and sheltering needs of individuals with special needs or disabilities.

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Planning Considerations

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Web Sites

  • Preparedness resources, including links to training, online tools, and forms, as well as grants, assistance, government policies, and initiatives for persons with disabilities.
    Available at the Disability.gov Web site: www.disability.gov
  • An interactive online directory of regional, State, and local disability-related emergency management resources for responders, planners, government officials, and the disability community
    Available at the National Organization on Disability Web site: www.nod.org

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