Advancing emergency preparedness of community based organizations in Western Massachusetts serving Individuals Requiring Additional Assistance (IRAA) in order to:
- Protect lives of IRAA throughout the community
- Minimize physical and psychological trauma from disasters
- Reduce peak demand on First Responders and Emergency Management Directors (EMDs)
In order to meet these challenges, the Western Mass IRAA Preparedness Project has been working with community based organizations to plan effective emergency preparation. These organizations are uniquely positioned to provide life-sustaining support to vulnerable individuals before, during and after an emergency.
Individuals Requiring Additional Assistance (IRAA)
When disaster strikes, everyone is vulnerable, but those in difficult circumstances or with a temporary incapacity (such as a single mother or someone who has recently had surgery) could be an individual requiring additional assistance. Because the very young, the very old, and those who care for them also face extra challenges in emergencies, community based organizations serving their needs participated in the project as well. While this project focused on organizations aiding those with long-term physical, developmental, mental or medical disabilities, as well as those with low-literacy, limited English-language and few financial resources, the individual preparedness information created and used is useful for everyone.
Western Massachusetts Regional Homeland Security Advisory Council
Under the guidance of the Pandemic Flu Subcommittee of the Western Regional Homeland Security Advisory Council (WRHSAC), four County Coordinators and the Project Coordinator developed a proactive and cooperative approach to IRAA emergency preparedness for Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden, and Hampshire Counties. More than 100 representatives of organizations and agencies who participated in advisory councils and conferences in all four counties have provided positive feedback and evaluations.
Western Massachusetts IRAA Preparedness Project Accomplishments
- Opening new channels of communication on emergency planning for community based organizations with Emergency Management Directors and First Responders (Police, Fire, EMS), who are on the front lines in responding to emergencies
- Establishing IRAA Advisory Councils (comprised of IRAAs, community based organizations, public health and public safety representatives) as continuing resources for IRAA emergency preparedness efforts
- Working with Mass 2-1-1 to provide an accessible database of contact information of community based organization and government agency staff that work with IRAA for use by responders during emergencies
- Developing evacuation and sheltering strategies with particular attention to IRAA populations (currently ongoing)
- Organizing and presenting seven Emergency Preparedness Conferences throughout the region and providing educational workshops, tabletop exercises, and dialogue opportunities for representatives of community based organization with First Responders and EMDs
- Arranging for conference keynote speakers from Mass 2-1-1, United Way, The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts and Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing