DISASTERS
 

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Disasters and Emergency Situations
 

HRC Guide for Emergency Responders
US Dept of Health & Human Services

National LGBT Health Education Center

LGBT Health & Wellness

International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission

 


Emergency Preparedness and Cultural Competence
 

 “Disasters affect an entire community without regards to individuals’ specific needs or circumstances, including sexual orientation.”

-NATURAL DISASTER INTERFAITH NETWORK

 

“Disasters don’t discriminate, but sometimes people do. When disaster strikes, it affects an entire community, and causes hardships for Americans of all ages, genders, religions, cultures and sexual orientations.”

-US DEPT OF HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES

 

“Developing cultural competence is crucial for providers to fully serve and meet the needs of the LGBT community.”

-HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN

 

“LGBT Americans contend with discrimination and prejudice and when a disaster strikes, LGBT individuals and families often face additional stress or heightened challenges, due in part to fears

of being underserved in emergency services.”

-US DEPT OF HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES

 

“Leaders best serve an affected community by focusing on every survivor’s unmet needs in a respectful and dignified manner. Your leadership may be needed to ensure that LGBT survivors receive full access to assistance programs and services during all phases of the disaster lifecycle, but especially in relief and recovery programs.”

-NATURAL DISASTER INTERFAITH NETWORK

 

“Emergency responders can take steps to reduce the stress and fear by creating a more welcoming environment for the LGBT community.”

-US DEPT OF HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES

 

“If an LGBT family comes to you for emergency services, you should treat them as family.”

-HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN

 


Disasters Don't Discriminate (But Sometimes People Do)

 

By Lt. Allen Applegate, Program Analyst, Office of Human Services Emergency Preparedness Response
June 3, 2013

Imagine your town has just been struck by a tornado. You and your family emerge from your basement as the storm passes to find your home has been destroyed. Everything in your home is gone – clothes, furniture, family photos – all gone. You are left stunned, overcome by emotions happy that you and your family is safe but wondering what you will do next and where your family will go for help. Now imagine experiencing this challenging moment while being afraid to seek help. It's a fear because your family may not look like other families in your neighborhood - in your family, there happens to be two dads.

When disaster strikes, it affects an entire community, and causes hardships for Americans of all ages, genders, religions, cultures and sexual orientations. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans live and work in virtually every community in the United States. LGBT Americans contend with discrimination and prejudice and when a disaster strikes, LGBT individuals and families often face additional stress or heightened challenges, due in part to fears of being underserved in emergency services. Emergency responders can take steps to reduce the stress and fear by creating a more welcoming environment for the LGBT community which include:


--Learn more – a good first step is to learn more about the LGBT community and understand the challenges the LGBT community faces.
--Be inclusive – if possible, involve the community in developing plans, including representatives from the LGBT community.
--Show respect for families – when an LGBT family seeks assistance, treat them like any other family.
--Create a safe environment – ensure shelters and service providers are open to the entire community and that they are safe environments for LGBT individuals and families.

 


Working with LGBT Communities in a Disaster
 

LGBT Individuals…

Live in your community and will be affected by any disaster that effects the general population. Reside in every county in the US, urban and rural.  Belong to every racial, ethnic, religious, age, and socioeconomic group in the US. 8.8 million adults in the US, about 3% of the total US population.

 

Same Sex Couples…

It is legal to marry in all states, but may or may not be married.  May or may not have children.  May refer to themselves are partners, spouses, husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, friends.  Consider themselves to be a family.

 

LGBT Families…

Like all people, LGBT individuals enter into deeply committed relationships and raise children.  777,000 same sex couples in US.  20% are raising children under the age of 18.  270,000 children live in households headed by same-sex couples.

 

Chosen Families…

LGBT individuals and their partners are sometimes rejected by biological family.  Household may be made up by group of close friends.  Defined in emotional terms rather than legal or structural terms.  Children may be biological, adopted, or from a previous relationship.

 

When working with the LGBT community during a disaster or emergency situation, responders should consider these guidelines…

 

Provide a safe and welcoming environment.  Treat them with dignity and respect.  Do not express judgment, condemnation, disdain, disgust, or rejection. Trauma can be compounded by fear of discrimination and confrontation.

 

LGBT families should be offered same housing and counseling services other families receive. Respect family structure and relationship status.  It is not appropriate or necessary to ask detailed or intrusive questions family structure (LGBT or otherwise).  Be aware of delicate conversations in the presence of young children. Remember that they have just survived a disaster.  Do not further traumatize a family by being insensitive.  Do not prevent or deter them from seeking needed medical or mental health treatment.

 

Transgender notes…

If someone tells you or shows you that they are a woman or a man you should respect that gender identity. Transgender people may not always look like or dress like the gender they identify with.  It is unnecessary and harmful to question or express hostility towards person due to their stated or presenting identity.

 

Eligibility Notes…

FEMA and SBA benefits and federal disaster assistance is available to all families.  Couples and parents do not need to be married or have documentation of their relationship to be eligible.  Proof of ownership or occupancy should be sufficient. 

 

LGBT Friendly…

Ethical codes, policies, and beliefs regarding LGBT issues vary from institution to institution.  Be aware of those agencies, facilities, and organizations that are not LGBT affirming.  Provide families with information about providers and community partners that are LGBT affirming.

 


LGBT Disaster and Emergency Information
 

HRC Guide for Emergency Responders
US Dept of Health & Human Services

National LGBT Health Education Center

LGBT Health & Wellness

International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission


 


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ALGBTICAL

Association for Lesbian Gay Bisexual & Transgender Issues in Counseling of Alabama