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Emergency Communication

Guidelines for Advocates of People with Complex Communication Needs (CCN)

The following information is for advocates who wish to work at the local, state and national level to increase awareness about the needs of people with limited speech and complex communication needs in emergency/disaster situations.

To date, few people in the field of emergency management and preparedness are aware of the needs of people who have functional limitations that interfere with communication access. This large group of individuals include those with speech disabilities, complex communication needs, cognitive challenges, very young children, anyone under severe stress, people who have a hearing loss and those with limited English proficiency.

At this time, there is almost no awareness of the needs of people with CCN who rely on AAC.

The AAC community needs to change that!

Action Steps

  1. Encourage emergency preparedness personnel in your community to include people who have complex communication needs (CCN) in emergency/disaster preparedness planning and drills.
  2. Encourage people with CCN and their representatives to join community disaster planning committees and to participate in drills.
  3. Become aware of, and familiar with, the laws and public policies that relate to emergency preparedness and people with disabilities and other conditions that result in communication challenges. In the United States, the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and Presidential Order 13347 (July 22, 2004) state that governments, private entities and non-governmental organizations must accommodate the needs of people with disabilities in times of emergencies.
  4. Develop and implement an outreach plan that increases community awareness and encourages people with limited speech and their advocates to prepare for emergencies/disasters in advance. Helping people take responsibility for themselves in emergency/disaster situations is a key ingredient to their survival. See Disaster Preparedness for People who have Limited Speech: Taking Responsibility for Your Safety (
  5. Help people identify accessible and reliable transportation they can use in case of a disaster. People should know if and where accessible transportation will be located In an emergency/disaster . They should also know where accessible vans/buses will take them. NOTE: If possible, people should identify their own transportation.
  6. Identify potential shelters and help prepare individuals who are communication-vulnerable to check them out. While shelters are expected to make accommodations for service animals, provide ways to plug in/charge electronic equipment, accommodate family members who can attend to someone’s basic needs/emotional and communication issues, etc., many do not.

Resources about Emergency Communication


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