If there were a major emergency today, most residents if directed could leave their homes quickly, jump in the car and make their way toward safety. But that’s not the case for everyone. People with a physical or mental disability who live alone could have a problem.
Recognizing this could be an issue, Westchester County’s Department of Emergency Services is putting together a database of residents who may require additional assistance, transportation or a place to stay if told to evacuate in the event of an emergency or disaster. Called the Special Needs Registry, the listing will be made available to local government so they can assist their own residents.
“If you can’t leave your home without help, or you rely on special life-sustaining equipment, it’s important for you to register. And it’s easy to do – just call 2-1-1 and they will register you on line,” said County Executive Andy Spano.
Spano noted that the registry is not a guarantee of assistance or a substitute for having a personal assistance plan. Rather it’s an essential tool that would help in community-wide emergency management efforts. Residents are also urged to think ahead and work with family, neighbors and friends to make sure they have their own plan in place in case of emergency.
The Special Needs Registry initiative comes from a state directive that asks each county to maintain a registry of disabled persons in order to meet their special needs for assistance, in evacuation and sheltering, during an emergency.
While the registry is confidential, it will be shared with local, state and federal agencies that might be involved in an emergency response. Each municipality in Westchester will be provided with a list of those persons in the registry residing in their community.
Note that the registry is not open to those who live in institutional settings such as a nursing home or group home. It is intended for those who live on their own.
The county has sent letters to municipalities and community-based agencies that work with special needs populations asking them to help spread the word by including information about the new registry in newsletters, public access programs or in other promotional materials.
Residents are able to register by calling 2-1-1, signing up online, or by obtaining an application from the Office of Emergency Management at (914) 864-5450. People are also able to register a family member or friend in need.
Each application will be screened and evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Registrants will be notified within 45 days if their application has NOT been approved. Information must be updated on an annual basis.
For more information about the program, call (914) 864-5450. Help spread the word by printing and distributing flyers.