Emergency Planning and Disabled Populations: Assessing the FNSS Approach

August 2013 (VOL. 31, NO. 2)

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Emergency managers face a variety of planning challenges, especially because the needs of any community are heterogeneous. One illustration of these planning challenges is the historical neglect of community members with disabilities or other functional needs. The salience of including residents with disabilities and other functional needs gained momentum in the Post-Katrina environment. Within this context, the Federal Emergency Management Agency developed the Functional Need Support Services (FNSS) approach to disaster evacuation shelter management. In this paper, we assess the FNSS model and identify several key challenges that can be expected in the development and implementation of this approach based on a social construction approach to understanding policy making. These challenges can be thought to be generally relevant to most new programmatic initiatives, but as we show in this case, are particularly applicable to community-wide hosting of evacuees. Interviews with key stakeholders with experience in evacuation hosting reveal deep seated social constructions of residents with functional needs that may constrain the possible impact of the FNSS guidance.