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Dawn Skaggs, a faculty member in the UH Mānoa College of Education Center on Disability Studies (CDS), won a Community Resilience Innovation Challenge program award. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) selected 30 winners out of 1,900 applications, and Skaggs was the sole recipient from Hawaiʻi. Along with national recognition, she will receive a $35k grant to further the CDS Emergency Preparedness Project.

In a May 2013 FEMA press release, the program is described as “building local community resilience to man-made and natural disasters, with an emphasis on innovation, collaboration with community stakeholders, sustainability, repeatability and measurable benefits to the community.” In order for disaster management to meet the nation’s preparedness goals, according to FEMA, the entire community must be involved in every phase from preparedness to response to recovery.

Skaggs serves as a multiple projects coordinator for CDS and is the principal investigator of the FEMA grant. Her successful proposal was built on the efforts of the Hawaiʻi Emergency Preparedness System of Support (HiEPSS), which provides ‘train the trainer’ opportunities for people who are considered to be from vulnerable populations. Skaggs’s latest grant award will strengthen the efforts of partner agencies to train individuals with disabilities to become emergency preparedness trainers themselves.

“Trainers are mentored to take leadership roles in the emergency management community to provide disability best practices education to first responders, volunteer organizations and service providers,” Skaggs explained. “In essence, this project bridges the gap between vulnerable populations and emergency management and provides a means of including individuals into the emergency preparedness and planning process, empowering individuals, families, and communities to become independent and resilient.”

Among the programs included in Skaggs’s grant project is the Access and Functional Needs Tips for First Responders (AFN-Tips). Designed for first responders and helping professionals, AFN-Tips offers a free mobile site and apps to provide guidelines for working with and assisting individuals with disabilities in emergencies. These can be accessed by going to cds.hawaii.edu/tips.

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