News Release

November 30, 2005

Contact: Carolyn Pennington, 860-679-4864

Lessons Learned from Hurricane Katrina

A Forum on Disaster Preparedness for People with Disabilities

FARMINGTON, CONN. – For three days after Hurricane Katrina hit, Benilda Caixetta, a quadriplegic, had been calling the New Orleans paratransit system for a ride to the Superdome. No one came until a week later, to find Benilda drowned in her apartment, next to her wheelchair.

Marcie Roth, executive director and CEO of the National Spinal Cord Injury Association, was on the phone with Benilda when the water came rushing in to her apartment. “Sometimes things like this can’t be prevented,” said Roth. “Despite the magnitude of the catastrophe, this was not one of those times. Benilda did not have to drown.”

Roth will be one of the speakers at a special forum, called Lessons Learned addressing disaster issues and people with disabilities. It will be held on Tuesday, December 6, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Northeast Utilities Auditorium, at the corner of 107 Selden Street and the Berlin Turnpike in Berlin. The event is sponsored by the Developmental Disabilities Network, which includes the University of Connecticut A.J. Pappanikou Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities Education, Research, and Service.

Officials in Louisiana say many of the more than one thousand victims of Hurricane Katrina were people with disabilities. Lessons Learned is aimed at preventing a similar tragedy should a catastrophic event occur in Connecticut. “I have learned over the past few months that for all of the planning that has gone on, people with disabilities are not in good hands, and without immediate and bold steps, their needs will remain entirely unmet when the next disaster strikes,” said Roth.

Lessons Learned Agenda:

10 a.m. to noon
A National Perspective on Disaster Preparedness
Marcie Roth, executive director/CEO, National Spinal Cord Injury Association

Connecticut’s Disaster Preparedness Plan
John Carleton, branch director, Department of Human Services, FEMA Region I

Commissioner Skip Thomas, Connecticut Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security (DEMHS)

Mario Bruno, Connecticut Red Cross

Stephen Thal, Capital Region Emergency Planning Committee

Theresa Nadeau, A.J. Pappanikou Center on Disabilities, UConn Health Center

Noon to 1 p.m. Lunch
Lessons Learned from Katrina
Sandee Winchell, executive director, Louisiana Developmental Disabilities Council

1 to 2:30 p.m.
Disaster Preparedness Needs
Small group discussions, including:

  • Communications
  • Shelter
  • Personal Assistance
  • Transportation
  • Food and Water
  • Utilities
  • Health and Medication
  • Mental Health

2:30 to 3 p.m.
Wrap Up and Next Steps

For more information, contact Jessica Jagger at 860-679-1584.

The Developmental Disabilities Network is a partnership of the Connecticut Council on Developmental Disabilities, the Connecticut Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities, and the University of Connecticut A.J. Pappanikou Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities Education, Research, and Service.

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