Accessibility for civil protection for the disabled

Disabled people are particularly hard hit by severe storms and similar disasters:

  • In this case, it can be particularly difficult for them to get to safety.
  • They are more likely not to be reached by warnings, for example because they do not have sufficient access to information or their social environment is not working properly. Anyone who is woven into a social network will probably receive information about an existing storm directly or indirectly. by third parties.
  • The third problem can be that they are unable to help themselves or others when the worst comes to the worst. For example, many non-disabled people have taken a first-aid course to get their driver's license and can therefore provide quick help. Disabled people who are active in civil protection seem to be quite rare so far.

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Particular hazard

Suppose the power goes out and a fire is started by lightning, a wheelchair user is unable to get himself to safety if he has to climb a flight of stairs to do so.

It is difficult for a blind person to get to safety, of course he cannot see that a branch is ripping off somewhere or a tree is about to fall over. Ambient noise is muffled by heavy rain or wind, so he can completely lose orientation.

The deaf and hard of hearing miss acoustic warning signals such as sirens, but also the creaking of a building in danger of collapsing.

Wheelchair users are less able to avoid falling or toppling objects. In the worst case, the wheelchair can be damaged in such a way that it can no longer be used.

What to do

Below I would like to propose a number of measures to improve civil protection for the disabled.

The core element is prevention, which means that people are informed as early as possible. Now it is relatively easy to warn of rain or storms, but difficult to predict the strength of a storm. The Whitsun storm consisted of a large cloud that passed over NRW. This time it hit the Ruhr area in particular, but it could have hit the Rhineland or the Lower Rhine as well. There was a little storm and hail in Bonn, but that was well within the scope of an average summer thunderstorm.

Nevertheless, warnings are of course important and, with the current state of technology, they can be kept up to date every hour. So you should be able to predict the probability of a storm at location XY one to two hours in advance and warn the residents accordingly. The city of Bonn could have warned about the Pentecost storm on its channels, but at least it didn't do so on Twitter and in its newsletter. This raises the question of why you're on Twitter at all if you can't even send out an ad hoc storm warning.

The warning channels must be accessible. For example, sirens or loudspeaker announcements cannot be heard at all by the deaf and can be incomprehensible to the hard of hearing.

There are, of course, a number of other measures that need to be taken. The fire brigade and civil protection must learn to save the disabled. and to communicate with them. Smoke detectors should by default warn on multiple channels instead of just beeping and the instructions on the fire extinguishers should be less novel-like, how about plain language or Braille on fire extinguishers?

Disabled people should also be trained in civil protection themselves. Very few blind people have completed a first aid course and are therefore less able to help other people. Deaf people or those with learning disabilities could work more or less easily in the THW, the Red Cross or DLRG and, last but not least, help themselves. If these organizations became a little more inclusive, they would have fewer recruiting problems.

Another component that needs to be improved is the social inclusion of people who are particularly at risk. The neighbors should also be willing to inform the disabled person in difficult cases, or point out to the fire brigade that there is a person who is particularly at risk. This applies not only to disabled people, but also to older people who, for whatever reason, are obviously unable to inform themselves or to help themselves.

It doesn't work without active participation

Apparently today all severely disabled people have to be evacuated by non-disabled colleagues if there is a fire, for example. That's not exactly inclusive, but to be honest, it doesn't make much sense either. When there is heavy smoke, nobody can escape from a building better than a blind person, who is not hindered by the restricted view. However, many disabled people seem to see themselves more as people to be rescued than as rescuers.

Most measures are of little use without the active participation of the disabled. If you live in an area prone to flooding, you need to keep up to date on this if, for example, it rains heavily for a few days. A few hot summer days are followed by thunderstorms like aheming in church.

There are countless disabilities, but very few of these people are completely cut off from current information thanks to current information technology. Other third-party measures can only take effect where this technology reaches its limits, for example if electricity and mobile communications fail at the same time and the social channels also no longer work. Such situations are of course extremely rare in this country, but you should be prepared for them.

Last but not least, it is necessary for people to practice bringing themselves to safety, as far as this is possible with their disability. Very few people - whether disabled or not - know how best to behave in a thunderstorm when you are out and about.

It also makes sense to engage in outside help. A person with brittle bone disease can also deal with first aid in order to be able to instruct a third person. A blind person should know how to behave when there is a lot of smoke, and deaf people can be excellent rescue workers because they are not distracted by noise and can easily communicate with other people over long distances, provided they have sufficient sign language skills. I can already see the headline: Deaf saves colleagues from blazing inferno. Everyone has an obligation to do what is within their means.

Social Factors