PRDCRN has developed an extensive capacity building program geared towards the effective handling of PWD and appropriate ways to integrate their needs into the mitigation, planning, response, and recovery stages of an emergency or disaster. Through this commitment, the Network commits to expanding their advocacy and capacity building activities consisting of workshops to be provided to private and public agencies, first responders, volunteers, elderly housing administrators, community leaders, and corporations. The partners will conduct 200 trainings per year, impacting 2,000 people, over the next four years in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to reach a total of 8,000 people.
The trainings will cover topics such as sensitivity training, the consequences of non-inclusive emergency planning, notification strategies before a disaster, shelter preparedness, evacuation processes for PWD, alternative communication methods, and training on laws that protect PWDs. Additionally, the partners will use a "train the trainer" model with approximately ten agencies per year, so that additional agencies will be prepared to offer the workshops and ensure the continuity and multiplying effect of the program. PWD and their families will also be trained on effective preparation processes for different disaster scenarios and how to prepare emergency tool kits.
The Defensoría de Las Personas con Impedimentos will monitor agencies involved in emergency planning to ensure systems change in future plans and provide legal assistance to people with disabilities. MAVI will run the capacity building program focused on emergency preparedness. UCEDD will provide research and evaluation for the training program. CEDD will identify funding sources and program development opportunities for the network. PRATP will develop technological options for the trainings to ensure accessible communication alternatives such as hearing aids, communication boards, and verbal communication equipment.
PRDCRN will also to evaluate the satisfaction and impact of the training curriculum and incorporate these results into future plans. The group's overall expectation is to generate systems change in future emergency plans and awareness of the needs of this community neglected in the past, and to ensure that the voice of PWD is represented in the reconstruction of Puerto Rico. The PRDCRN's first funder and supporter of the network was Paul Timmons, Portlight Inclusive Strategies.
Host average of 16 workshops per month in 2019, with 10 people per workshop
200 workshops hosted and 2,000 individuals trained by end of year (total)
Host 200 workshops (average of 16 per month)
4,000 individuals trained by end of year (total)
Host 200 workshops
6,000 individuals trained by end of year (total)
Host 200 workshops
8,000 individuals trained by end of year (total)
Conclusion of training program and assessments
In the aftermath of Hurricane María, the absence of planning and services provided to people with disabilities (PWD), people with Deficiencies in Development (DID), and people with access and functional needs were evident. They confronted many barriers that jeopardized their health and security, and were left unattended during the rescue efforts of first responders and government agencies. Some barriers confronted included damaged assistive equipment; lack of mobility/transportation, leaving PWD unable to transport themselves to where water, food, and aid was available; lack of proper food to meet dietary requirements; and lack of electricity to keep lifesaving equipment working.
The hurricane highlighted several key needs in terms of the needs of people with access and functional needs, PWD, and people with DID: shelters must be accessible; accessible communication methods need to be implemented for the safety of people with communication barriers; and people with disabilities should be identified before emergency events and intentionally included in planning and rescue efforts.
In order to address these gaps, there is a need for training first responders, public and private agencies, community leaders, volunteers, people with disabilities, their families, and the general public on how to better integrate the needs of PWD, DID, and people with access and functional needs into preparedness plans.
In recognition of this need, several organizations dedicated to the security and wellbeing of PWD came together to form the Puerto Rico Disability Community Relief Network (PRDCRN) after Hurricane María, to identify and attend to the urgent needs of PWD. However, seeing the widespread negligence towards the disability community on the island, the group decided it was necessary to engage further in advocacy and capacity building efforts.
The sustainability and development of PRDCRN is vital. Support is needed in the following areas. (1) Relationships with stakeholders and members of Congress, allies and advocates for the inclusion of PWD in emergency planning and other issues that concern them. This is of utmost importance for systems change to happen; (2) Funding is essential for the evolution of this network. All PRDCRN's members are volunteers, yet they need a location with warehousing space to operate from and maintain inventory (assistive equipment and basic needs supply) to provide PWD in a future event. Personnel to support their five-year strategic plan is also needed. (3) Partnerships with organizations with expertise on the subject is important for PRDCRN's capacity building process and continuous insight of actual and changing information involving disasters or emergencies. (4) Media coverage is needed to create awareness of services available for PWD in preparedness and response efforts and support initiatives being proposed.
The Puerto Rico Disability Community Relief Network's vision is to ensure that all people with disabilities are safe and secure before, during, and after a disaster. This holds true for PWD on the island and elsewhere. In order to fulfill this goal, collaboration and partnerships are of essence. PRDCRN is eager to share their capacity building workshops and material with agencies or organizations who share their vision. A “Train the Trainer” & Agency Capacity Building Program will be available in order to ensure a cross sector partnership approach that will provide a multiplying effect in the reach to additional areas of Puerto Rico (which include Vieques and Culebra), US Virgin Islands and any other interested party to ensure the dissemination, impact and effectiveness of the program. The material has also been made available in MAVI’s website for access for all interested parties.