Educating first responders to provide emergency services to individuals with disabilities

UMMS Affiliation

Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center; Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center

Publication Date


Document Type



Community Health and Preventive Medicine | Emergency and Disaster Management | Health Services Administration | Mental Disorders | Public Health Education and Promotion


OBJECTIVE: Individuals with disabilities experience more negative outcomes due to natural and manmade disasters and emergencies than do people without disabilities. This vulnerability appears to be due in part to knowledge gaps among public health and safety emergency planning and response personnel (responders). We assessed the effectiveness of an online program to increase emergency responder knowledge about emergency planning and response for individuals with disabilities.

METHODS: Researchers developed an online course designed to teach public health, emergency planning and management, and other first response personnel about appropriate, efficient, and equitable emergency planning, response, interaction, and communication with children and adults with disabilities before, during, and after disasters or emergencies. Course features included an ongoing storyline, exercises embedded in the form of real-life scenarios, and game-like features such as points and timed segments.

RESULTS: Evaluation measures indicated significant pre- to post-test gains in learner knowledge and simulated applied skills.

CONCLUSION: An online program using scenarios and simulations is an effective way to make disability-related training available to a wide variety of emergency responders across geographically disparate areas.

DOI of Published Version



Wolf-Fordham SB, Twyman JS, Hamad CD. Educating first responders to provide emergency services to individuals with disabilities. Disaster Med Public Health Prep. 2014 Dec;8(6):533-40. doi: 10.1017/dmp.2014.129. PubMed PMID: 25859692; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4437503. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Disaster medicine and public health preparedness

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID