Shelter locations within the City of Fort Worth, Texas were not in compliance with the guidance provided by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Fort Worth was concerned that in the event of a disaster or emergency requiring shelter activation, the City would not be able to provide the proper, legally required assistance for a portion of the more than three million Texans with a disability.
Hagerty was hired to conduct a Functional Needs Support Services (FNSS) Shelter Assessment of the existing shelters, an overarching assessment of the programmatic elements of FNSS in the City, and provide a recommendation for how to remediate deficiencies and take steps toward compliant shelter operations.
The Hagerty team began by researching current policies, procedures, laws, and agreements in place. Information-gathering included a survey among City employees; evaluating written procedures for working with advocacy groups; establishing a voluntary and confidential registry for persons with disabilities; reviewing demographic information of people with disabilities already within the local shelter service area; and reviewing past complaints regarding shelters or shelter service. At each of the shelter locations, measurements and photographs were taken to capture door and walkway space, slopes, and door pressure to determine FNSS compliance. Additional locations within each shelter that were evaluated included parking lots, drinking fountains, restrooms and showers, food preparation and feeding areas, utilities, sleeping areas, and telephone access. The team gathered more than 200 data points from inside and outside each shelter and compiled all of this information in a comprehensive document including photographs and diagrams.
The final document included specific recommendations for improvements. Topics addressed in the report included pre-agreements with social service and volunteer organizations, involving the disability community to participate in plan developments, identifying back up power sources, securing reliable transportation, and designing appropriate and usable signage for various segments of the disability community. The report was presented before City executives and very well received. Some of the recommendations were implemented relatively quickly and easily. For the others, plans are being made to incorporate them over time given budgetary constraints while the City pursues additional funding sources such as federal and state grants.