FEMA Promising Practice: Communication Outreach and Toolkits

FEMA Promising Practice: Communication Outreach and Toolkits

14th January, 2016

This webinar will have two presentations that address responding to communications and outreach needs of the whole community. In the first presentation, we will hear from members of the Community Outreach and Effective Communications Subcommittee of the Texas Disability Task Force about how they work to ensure access through outreach to the community. One of the products created and distributed by the Texas Disability Task Force is the Effective Communications Toolkit. The Effective Communication toolkit applies to emergency management and public information professionals who work for, or with, local jurisdictions to communicate warnings, notifications, and other messages to news media and to the public. It also contains face-to-face operational communication tools for shelter managers and first responders.

In the second presentation, we will hear from the Disability Representative of the Regional Catastrophic Planning Team (FEMA Region 10), with the Emergency Shelter Communications Toolkit, a Field Manual designed for use primarily by any facility planning for, or pressed into service as, an emergency shelter. Written by disability subject matter experts, it provides information, tools, and resources, to address communication barriers which can be present in an emergency shelter situation. The manual also has value for any emergency management professional in communication with people with disabilities.

Learning objective:

  • Learn elements that ensure that emergency communications services and equipment address the functional and access needs of people with disabilities as part of a “whole community” approach.
  • Learn about the development, goals, and contents of the Emergency Shelter Communications Toolkit, and its uses, in the field and in planning, outreach, and other emergency management activities.


Russell Cook, MCP, Chair, Disability Task Force on Emergency Management, has served as the Business Continuity Coordinator and the Emergency Preparedness Coordinator for the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS) since December of 2011. In this role, Mr. Cook works daily to ensure the resiliency of the agency. During his 20 years in Texas state government, he has also served as a Fiscal Manager and Property Manager for the Texas Department of Human Services and the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services.

Ron Lucey was recently hired as the Executive Director, Texas Governor's Committee on People with Disabilities. Previously, he was the accessibility and web support manager for the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitation Services. Mr. Lucey was the first chair of the Texas Disability Taskforce on Emergency Management, representing the local mayor's committees on people with disabilities. He served as the City of Austin's commissioner and chairman of the Austin Mayor's Committee for People with Disabilities for more than 15 years. His perspective as a person with a visual disability has helped him effectively advocate for accessibility and the rights of Texans with disabilities.

Deborah Witmer, a resident of Seattle, Washington, formerly a disability advocate working to improve community resilience, recently became the Vulnerable Populations Coordinator in the City of Seattle's Human Services Department, and part of the Emergency Management team. Also, as a Commissioner on the Seattle Commission for People with disAbilities, and Co-Chair of their Public Safety Committee, she serves as the Liaison with the Seattle Department of Emergency Management, responding, when activated, with the ESF-6 Branch. She also serves as the Co-Chair of the Disability Advisory Group, supporting on-going partnerships between nonprofits and individuals in the disability community and emergency management professionals. Deborah also serves as the Disability Representative on the Regional Catastrophic Planning Team, a FEMA-established, 8-county, catastrophic planning group in Washington State.