HomeWorldNS Disability Advocate Fiona then calls for a disabled-persons registrySEDI News

NS Disability Advocate Fiona then calls for a disabled-persons registrySEDI News

Artist and disability advocate Annie Camozzi said that in the wake of post-tropical storm Fiona, she felt disconnected from the rest of her community near Antigonish, NS.

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Camozzi uses a wheelchair and after the power went out in his house and his phone line went down, he only had his radio to get updates on what was going on outside his house.

“First of all, the rest centers weren’t announced before the hurricane, then after the hurricane we didn’t have any telecommunications … to find out where they were,” she told Jeff Douglas. main street this week.

“[Comfort centres] There were places like fire hall. How can I get in my wheelchair when the only accessible transportation people can’t get to work because their homes are damaged and they don’t have power?”

No thought was given to helping the disabled and elderly after the storm, Camozzi said, adding that the government must change something before another major weather event blows through Nova Scotia. According to her, voluntary vulnerable-persons registration is one way the province can protect a large portion of the province’s population.

“We have 30 per cent of our population who identify as disabled, we have the largest senior population in Canada and no planning for vulnerable populations,” she said. “We need to do emergency planning for vulnerable people and that includes a vulnerable-persons registry. It works in other places, it will work here.”

Lack of security

Camozzi is just one of several people struggling with power outages and property damage after Fiona.

Angus Campbell, who lives in Halifax, said his main concern during the outage was safety in his 10th-floor apartment.

“We can’t really go down the dark stairs, most of our neighbors are seniors, many of them frail,” he said. “Is EHS allowed to walk up flights of dark stairs to get someone? I don’t know. If someone needs help, how are they going to get it at this point?”

Shirley O’Neill was also put in a similar position due to the storm. O’Neill lives in a senior complex in Dartmouth and has several health conditions, including asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which blocks airflow through the lungs. Her condition worsened a week before the storm, she said, and as a result, she was having trouble breathing.

“Our backup elevator is working at best from time to time, and I’m in a wheelchair, so it’s very unsafe for me to go up there,” O’Neill said from her apartment. “I can’t use the BiPap machine, I can’t use my nebulizer machines, I can’t use my air conditioner fan, it’s all important to my breathing.”

A BiPap machine helps push oxygen into the lungs, while a nebulizer is used to deliver medicine directly into the lungs, she explained, neither of which works without power. O’Neill said she should be at the hospital Friday before the storm hits, “but I don’t know how an ambulance is going to get to me.”

These situations could be avoided if the province had access to a registry, complete with locations, what types of disabilities residents have and individualized plans in case of emergencies, Kamozzi said.

Other jurisdictions have implemented some form of registry. Jeff Allison, client services coordinator in IT with Waterloo Regional Police Services, said: main street The region’s own vulnerable persons registry is similar to the one described in Camozzi.

The registry is a “collaborative effort” between the police, the community and several third-party organizations such as the Alzheimer’s Society, Ellison said. It allows loved ones with dementia, Alzheimer’s, communication problems and other medical concerns to enter information about the person – including special interests, pictures, specific challenges they may have and an address – which can be used to locate and identify them in case is They wander in the community.

“We have a lot of great success stories where those who are vulnerable in the region have been able to help because of this,” added Allison. “It’s really a community engagement to help with those types of scenarios.”

Some places in Nova Scotia keep records of their vulnerable community members. The province published a guide to emergency preparedness for people with disabilities and older adults in September 2021, which outlines some best practices to help people prepare in the event of a disaster. The guidelines mention that “many municipalities now maintain a list of persons with disabilities and their needs.”

A man stands in front of a severely damaged building.
During a briefing after Fiona, Premier Tim Houston said the province’s top priority was making sure people had safe shelter and electricity restored. (CBC)

After Fiona, Premier Tim Houston said the province would offer an additional $250 on top of the $750 seniors care grant and the additional funding would be automatically given to residents who already receive the grant.

Kamozi said the guide should have been distributed more widely before the typhoon, as she did not learn about it until several days after the typhoon hit the province.

And in her view, the lack of a registry betrays a lack of political will to make changes that would protect the province’s most vulnerable residents.

“There’s no neighborhood check-in system. There’s no senior check-in system. There’s no planning for people with disabilities or vulnerable adults,” Camozzi said. “This was our experience in Covid, and this is our experience in emergencies like hurricanes. We are definitely the forgotten population.”