I’ve helped a number of jurisdictions develop sheltering plans and exercise them so I understand current regulations in the United States. If you and your family are going to be residing in a shelter for an extended period of time you want some assurance of minimum standards.
The downside is the current regulations can limit the number of organizations willing to open their doors to the public in times of need. “…Selecting the Shelter State codes and standards must, at a minimum, meet the Federal requirements, but can be more comprehensive. The ADA and other Federal laws, including the Stafford Act, the Rehabilitation Act, the Fair Housing Act, and the Architectural Barriers Act, provide affirmative obligations and prohibitions of discrimination on the basis of disability. No State or local government, or its contractors, may, by law, policy, or contract, provide services below those standards without violating Federal law.
Japan is going to be revising their national shelter guidelines to include ‘temporary stay facilities” which will not be required to meet all the guidelines of typical shelters. The recent earthquake and tsunami events having given policy makers unique first-hand experience we can learn from. They are concerned that their current regulations could end up leaving thousands of people left outside during the next major event. Hypothermia becomes a real life safety threat in a matter of hours and without shelter could result in preventable deaths during disasters.
Life safety is the number one priority and incident stabilization the number two priority according to the Incident Command System (ICS) as referenced in the National Incident Management System (NIMS). We are all supposed to be NIMS compliant if we want federal grant money. It seems counter productive to have regulations so stringent they actually can impact our ability to address our top two priorities. By revising the rules in Japan, they are actually allowing for a graduated approach to meeting the immediate and intermediate needs of disaster survivors.
The short video clip below shows people in a temporary shelter in Japan, which would technically be in violation of the laws here in the United States. I’m a firm believer of the old adage “any port in a storm” . I would like to see a federal definition of a temporary shelter to allow more organizations to open their doors during major events without fear of legal repercussion. What’s your opinion?