European Association of Service providers for Persons with Disabilities (EASPD) Disaster Preparedness Survey

QUARTA, Giuliaa and CANKOVA Stefanab

a EASPD, Brussels, Belgium. E-mail: b EASPD, Brussels, Belgium. E-mail:

Abstract — This article sums up the main findings of EASPD research on the role of service providers for persons with disabilities in disaster preparedness and response. When major hazard occur, people with disability may need additional support. This implies to reorient the way in which civil protection services are planned and delivered. Moreover, it requires a higher involvement of specialised service providers, having the knowledge to provide the support these people are in need of.

Keywords — Service Providers, Persons with Disabilities, Disaster Preparedness and Response

1 Introduction

People with disabilities constitute a very large minority that consists of between one sixth and one fifth of the general population of most countries. When major incidents and disasters occur, people with disabilities face hardships that are potentially greater than that of the majority of the population and they can suffer additional forms of discrimination or neglect. Whereas measures for the general population are usually created for groups, a certain number of persons with disabilities require individual assistance, which may involve a fundamental reorientation in the way that civil protection services are planned and delivered. It is in this context that specialised service providers have a crucial role to play, as they quite often provide the individual support these people are in need of. Despite the efforts of countries to improve their emergency preparedness, little has yet been done in order to include the issue of disability into civil protection programmes of action. Preparing for disasters with and on behalf of persons with disabilities requires political commitment, national and local co-ordination, strategic planning, networking, knowledge management, optimisation of resources, as well as good communication strategies.

1.1 EASPD Disaster Preparedness Survey

In 2013, the European Association of Service providers for Persons with Disabilities (EASPD) joined the taskforce of the Committee of Permanent Correspondents of EUROPA, UNISDR, and the Council of Europe (CoE) on the inclusion of People with Disabilities (PwD) in Disaster Preparedness and Response. During its meeting in October 2013, the taskforce adopted a set of recommendations to the Committee of Ministers to inform and be distributed to all Member States of the CoE and decided to organise an international conference on the topic of Disaster Preparedness and Response in 2014/2015. In order to get a better understanding of the involvement and knowledge of service providers on this topic, EASPD consulted its members and asked them to provide their inputs through an online survey. The questionnaire first examined the experience of service providers across Europe in disaster situations and their capability to act in terms of methodology and protocols, trainings and models of good practice (MOGP). Next, it investigated service providers’ awareness of national, regional, local and municipal plans for disaster preparedness and response, specifically dedicated to PwD, as well as the service providers’ involvement in the development and implementation of these plans. Finally, it focused on assessing service providers’ level of involvement in ensuring the security of PwD in such emergencies and their opinions on their role in this field. A total of 27 organisations from 19 different European countries took part in the survey. These organisations are ranging from Single agencies, working directly with PwD, to Umbrella structures which represent the views and realities of service providers from across their countries. The research therefore provided a good knowledge-base on the topic from across Europe.

2 Added Value

The main objective of the survey was to clarify to what extent specialised service providers in Europe are involved in the development and the delivery of plans and procedures for disaster preparedness and response. In this sense, the report on the research results introduces the perspective and role of the support service providers for persons with disabilities, which should be taken in consideration in the development of the disaster risk reduction framework.

With regard to Priority Action 1 of the Hyogo Framework: Ensure that disaster risk reduction is a national and a local priority with a strong institutional basis for implementation, the survey results demonstrate that even though there are programmes and procedures addressing the disaster preparedness and response at local and national levels, they rarely, if at all, address the specific needs of persons with disabilities. Figure 1 clearly shows that service providers’ organisations, having the knowledge and know-how needed to support in a correct way this target group, are usually not involved in the development and implementation of disaster preparedness and response planning.

Figure 1: Involvement of organisations in disaster preparedness and response planning Source: EASPD Disaster and Risk Response Survey

In addition, when asked about specialised service providers’ involvement in ensuring the safety of PwD in cases of disasters, the majority of organisations (64%) affirmed not to be involved.

These results indicate the need of rethinking the way the responsible institutions at the local and national level involve experts and service providers in ensuring the safety of persons with disabilities during and after disasters.

Table 1: Involvement of specialised service providers in the planning for the safety of PwD in cases of natural disasters at national level. Source: EASPD Disaster and Risk Response Survey
Response Percentage Count
Yes 36% 9
No 64% 16
Total Responses 25

The survey also relate to Priority Action 3 of the Hyogo Framework: Use knowledge, innovation and education to build a culture of safety and resilience at all levels. The survey outcomes underline that while service providers do have the expertise in caring for their users, usually they are not sufficiently trained on how to support them in case of disaster. Only 42.3% of the organisations that took part in the survey currently provide their staff with a specific training on emergency response preparedness, whilst the majority of 57.7% don’t. In the first cases, trainings are provided on topics such as: how to act in case of fire, trauma, accident, and evacuation; on safety of buildings and necessary equipment; on cooperation with local fire departments and technical welfare organisations; on safety of persons and first aid.

Table 2: Organisations’ training of staff on how to act in cases of natural disasters. Source: EASPD Disaster and Risk Response Survey
Response Percentage Count
Yes 42.3% 11
No 57.7% 15
Total Responses 26

This result also relates to priority Action 5 of the Hyogo Framework: Strengthen disaster preparedness for effective response at all levels. The preparedness of service providers is crucial, as it is also their involvement in the elaboration of measures to prevent disasters from happening. A very important result of the survey is the definite willingness and readiness of service providers to cooperate with all relevant stakeholders, in order to strengthen the disaster preparedness. 88.5% of the interviewed organisations state that service providers should be more involved in ensuring the safety of PwD in cases of disaster emergencies. Only 5% of them deemed that such activities are not directly relevant to their work.

Table 3: Views on the need to further involve specialised service providers in the planning of the safety requirements for PwD in cases of disasters. Source: EASPD Disaster and Risk Response Survey
Response Percentage Count
Yes 88.5% 23
No 11.5% 3
Total Responses 26

With regard to further steps to be taken, EASPD survey results stressed the need for disaster preparedness and response plans to include specific guidelines on how to support PwD. Assistance to this specific target group should be provided through the cooperation with organisations and professionals possessing the knowledge and know-how to address the specific needs of these persons. Another aspect highlighted by the participants is the need to raise social awareness on the topic of disaster preparedness. More information, cooperation, training, and knowledge, specifically focused on supporting PwD has to be accumulated and provided in order to ensure the adequate response in case of disasters for all citizens, without exclusion and discrimination.

3 Conclusions

Disaster preparedness and response is an area in which the society can prove to be truly inclusive and fully respectful of the human rights of all its citizens. A disability perspective in this field is of utmost importance. Efficient and effective plans should include the knowledge and know-how available amongst specialized social and health service providers. They are the actors in the society who are often not only better equipped to provide support in a correct way but also, in many cases, they are in a very close and intense relationship with the people.


EASPD Disaster and Risk Response Survey (2014), G. Quarta, S. Cankova [Online]. Available at:


Quarta, G., and Cankova, S. (2015): European Association of Service providers for Persons with Disabilities (EASPD) Disaster Preparedness Survey. In: Planet@Risk, 3(1): 118-120, Davos: Global Risk Forum GRF Davos.