California Emergency Officials Continue to Overlook People With Disabilities, Audit Finds

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Sue Smith steadies herself as she gets in her tent at a wildfire evacuation center in 2015. (Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times)

Sue Smith steadies herself as she gets in her tent at a wildfire evacuation center in 2015. (Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times)

California emergency officials are continuing to overlook the state’s most vulnerable people, including those with disabilities, as they make preparations for inevitable wildfires, floods and other disasters, according to a state audit released this month.

Residents who don’t speak English have been unable to find information in their language. Individuals who use wheelchairs or rely on electricity to power lifesaving equipment have found themselves unable to move and cut off from the outside world, trapped in part, the audit suggests, by state and county leaders’ inability to think ahead for emergencies.

The 145-page audit focused on the emergency alert, evacuation and shelter plans in place for the California Office of Emergency Services and Ventura, Sonoma and Butte counties ahead of their respective wildfire disasters in 2017 and 2018.

“Given the weaknesses we identified in the three counties’ plans and the struggles local jurisdictions have had in assisting people with these needs,” the audit said, “the state must take a more active role in ensuring that local jurisdictions maintain effective plans for responding to natural disasters.”

Read the full story on LATimes.com.

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