Wayne State University's Elizabeth Janks was Prepared for Just About Anything as she traveled to Tel Aviv, Israel to Present on Emergency Preparedness Planning at the 6th International Conference on Disabilities (MI UCEDD)

August 4, 2015

Every four years Beit Issie Shapiro hosts an International Conference on Disabilities that brings together a wide range of professionals to learn and collaborate on the various research methods and practices going on in the field of disabilities around the world. Included in the list of presenters for this years' international conference in Tel Aviv, is Elizabeth Janks, LMSW, from the Developmental Disabilities Institute (DDI) at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. Janks' presentation focuses on Emergency Planning for people with disabilities and their support systems.

Ms. Janks work in emergency planning for people with disabilities started in 2009, when DDI received a National Project of Significance from AIDD, to provide the Supporting All Families in an Emergency project (S.A.F.E.). In 2012, the Michigan Department of Community Health (use their new name here), received a grant from the Center for Disease Control and contracted with the Developmental Disabilities Institute, to work as a consultant on their statewide initiative to improve emergency planning outcomes for people with disabilities, their caregivers and family. This emergency planning project also provides funding for disability awareness training to first responders, CERTS and volunteers, to increase their ability to work and communicate effectively with people who have disabilities in a disaster. This project has trained over 500 people with disabilities in Michigan.

In 2013, OCHA (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) reported that approximately 25.8 million people everywhere are affected by devastating natural disaster every year. For individuals with disabilities these disasters can leave them extremely vulnerable and sometimes even forgotten amongst the chaos. The goal of Emergency Preparedness Training Project is to both minimize exposure to any vulnerabilities and maximum the overall effectiveness of emergency responder's efforts. Some common problems Janks discovered from individuals with disabilities that had previously been in emergency situations was that they had not connected nor familiarized themselves with Emergency Responders in their community to communicate what their distinct needs would be in a disaster or emergency situation. She also found that individuals often do not have enough extra medication or medical supplies to last during a prolonged emergency. Although these small details are often times forgotten, Janks stresses the importance of recognizing the impact of details such as these in her trainings.

In order to provide adequate trainings to both the victims of emergency situations and the responders, the Developmental Disabilities Institute developed two different curriculums. The first is the Disability Awareness Training for Volunteers and First Responders, which addresses the needs of people with disabilities in emergency situations, such as shelter accessibility, communication, special equipment, helping service animals and reunification with family and direct care staff. The second is the Emergency Planning Training, designed for individuals with disabilities, their family members and caregivers. This training provides participants with a "Safe Place Toolkit" which includes two emergency plans and a checklist of what an individuals may need in their homes to be prepared for an emergency. Over the past 6 years Elizabeth Janks has given numerous trainings both online and in-person on Emergency Preparedness across the state of Michigan to stress the importance of planning for emergency. It is safe to say that Elizabeth was "Ready, Set, and Prepared" for just about anything that could happen during her 11,912 mile round trip journey from Detroit, Michigan to Tel Aviv, Israel.

To learn more about the Emergency Preparedness Project and how to acquire your very own "Safe Place" emergency tool kit visit: http://ddi.wayne.edu/emergencyprep.php