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LGBT community at higher risk during disasters: FEMA

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FEMA disaster preparedness report

LGBT community at higher risk during disasters: FEMA

In a first time for their annual National Preparedness Report, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) warned that the LGBT community is at risk from disasters, together with minorities and single parents.

The agency’s report— which started in 2012– historically focuses on the threats against the nation, as well as vulnerabilities like flooding and terrorism.

For this year, the 2020 report draws attention to those groups that may lack the financial and social resources to withstand a disaster. However, for this year, the report does not mention climate change.

FEMA’s report cites LGBT community

The agency noted that the LGBT people are “more likely than others to be severely impacted by disasters.” As such, they may need extra help.

This is the first time the report uses the words “lesbian,” “gay,” “bisexual,” and transgender.”

In particular, the report noted that “There are individuals and families who are particularly vulnerable to disasters.”

Moreover, the report cited factors like “age, financial insecurity, pregnancy, and identification with a historically disadvantaged group” that would increase their vulnerability.

For the LGBT community, the report said they “have historically been socially repressed and excluded.”

Research has shown that they more likely to be socially isolated and face disrespect or harassment in settings such as emergency shelters after a disaster.

FEMA response should be inclusive

Because of this, the agency said emergency managers should ““plan for the whole community, including those with civil rights protections” and “quickly restore social safety nets after a disaster.”

For example, single-parent households– which account for 30 percent of US households– have to deal with additional vulnerability because they “tend to have lower socioeconomic status and fewer social support resources.”

Meanwhile, minorities, low-income households, and less-educated people are less likely to have internet access at home– which is important after a disaster for finding help.

Moreover, low-income people also don’t have property insurance or flood insurance even though these households are “exactly the population that would benefit most from a post-disaster insurance payout.”

The agency had recently held a series of “civil rights summits” to address equity, accessibility, and environmental justice in disasters.

Report on what’s important to the nation

When FEMA Administrator Peter Gaynor was asked during a recent congressional hearing why climate change was not included in the 2019 preparedness report, he said the report didn’t mention any specific hazard.

He explained that this was “more of a thought piece about what was important to the nation.”

During the Obama administration, FEMA used its report to warn about the dangers of climate change. However, during the Trump administration, the agency stopped issuing these warnings.

Federal law requires FEMA to issue the preparedness report. Future reports “will prioritize pandemics,” the 2020 report promised.

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