OCR Guidance on Ensuring Equal Access to Emergency Services During Hurricane Florence
Official guidance from the Office for Civil Rights
Notification as sent from the OCR-Privacy-List listserv, operated by the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in the US Department of Health and Human Services:
As Hurricane Florence makes landfall, the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and its federal partners remain in close coordination to help ensure that emergency officials effectively address the needs of at-risk populations as part of disaster response. To this end, emergency responders and officials should consider adopting, as circumstances and resources allow, the following practices to help make sure all segments of the community are served:
- Employing qualified interpreter services to assist individuals with limited English proficiency and individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing during evacuation, response, and recovery activities;
- Making emergency messaging available in languages prevalent in the affected area(s) and in multiple formats, such as audio, large print, and captioning and ensuring that websites providing disaster-related information are accessible;
- Making use of multiple outlets and resources for messaging to reach individuals with disabilities, individuals with limited English proficiency, and members of diverse faith communities;
- Considering the needs of individuals with mobility impairments and individuals with assistive devices or durable medical equipment in providing transportation for evacuation;
- Identifying and publicizing accessible sheltering facilities that include accessible features, such as bathing, toileting, eating facilities, and bedding;
- Avoiding separating people from their sources of support, such as service animals, durable medical equipment, caregivers, medication, and supplies; and
- Stocking shelters with items that will help people to maintain independence, such as hearing aid batteries, canes, and walkers.
Being mindful of all segments of the community and taking reasonable steps to provide an equal opportunity to benefit from emergency response efforts will help ensure that the disaster management in all areas affected by Hurricane Florence is successful.
For more information regarding how Federal civil rights laws apply in an emergency, visit OCR’s Civil Rights Emergency Preparedness page.
For information about emergency requirements for long-term care facilities, visit the CMS Emergency Preparedness Rule page.
For information regarding Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and other civil rights authorities that HHS OCR enforces, visit the Laws and Regulations Enforced by OCR civil rights page.
DISCLAIMER: These guidance documents are not final agency actions, do not legally bind persons or entities outside the Federal government, and may be rescinded or modified in the Department’s discretion. Noncompliance with any voluntary standards (e.g., recommended practices) contained in these documents will not, in itself, result in any enforcement action.
If you believe that a person or organization covered by the Privacy and Security Rules (a "covered entity") violated your health information privacy rights or otherwise violated the Privacy or Security Rules, you may file a complaint with OCR. For additional information about how to file a complaint, visit OCR's web page on filing complaints at http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/privacy/hipaa/complaints/index.html.