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NJ Office Of Emergency Management

Plan & Prepare

Emergency Management Resources For Individuals with Functional Needs, and the Organizations Which Serve Them

The NJ Office of Emergency Management is committed to insuring access, integration and inclusion of individuals with functional needs into all phases of the emergency management process – mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery.

The NJOEM uses the definition outlined in the National Response Framework to address the needs of New Jersey’s community members who may need extra support during adverse conditions. We use the term “functional needs” instead of “special needs” for these reasons:

The NJOEM embraces the concept of whole-community planning. There is nothing “special” about insuring everyone can access mass care shelters, understand emergency information, evacuate safely or receive recovery information. We include advocates and human service providers in our planning efforts. Whole-community planning is just something we practice as a normal course of business, because every life matters.

Functional Needs - Definition

A function-based definition, instead of the "special needs" label, reflects the capabilities of the individual, not the condition, label or medical diagnosis. Before, during, and after an incident, access and functional needs populations may have needs in one or more of the following functional areas:

  • Maintaining independence - Individuals requiring support to be independent in daily activities may lose this support during an emergency or a disaster. This support may include supplies, durable medical equipment, and attendants or caregivers.
  • Communication - Individuals who have limitations that interfere with the receipt of and response to information will need that information provided in methods they can understand and use. They may not be able to hear verbal announcements, see directional signs, or understand how to get assistance all because of hearing, vision, speech, cognitive, or intellectual limitations, and/or limited English proficiency.
  • Transportation - Individuals who cannot drive or who do not have a vehicle may require transportation support for successful evacuation. This support may include accessible vehicles (e.g., lift-equipped or vehicles suitable for transporting individuals who use oxygen) or information about how and where to access mass transportation during an evacuation.
  • Supervision - Before, during, and after an emergency individuals may lose the support of caregivers, family, or friends or may be unable to cope in a new environment (particularly if they have dementia, Alzheimer’s or psychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia or intense anxiety). If separated from their caregivers, young children may be unable to identify themselves; and when in danger, they may lack the cognitive ability to assess the situation and react appropriately.
  • Medical care - Individuals who are not self-sufficient or who do not have adequate support from caregivers, family, or friends may need assistance with: managing unstable, terminal or contagious conditions that require observation and ongoing treatment; managing intravenous therapy, tube feeding, and vital signs; receiving dialysis, oxygen, and suction administration; managing wounds; and operating power dependent equipment to sustain life. These individuals require support of trained medical professionals.

Individuals in need of additional response assistance may include those who have disabilities; who live in institutionalized settings; who are elderly; who are unaccompanied children; who are from diverse cultures; who have limited English proficiency; or who are non-English speaking; or who are transportation disadvantaged.

They have typically exhausted all other resources (family, neighbors, public transportation, etc.) and still need assistance for evacuation and/or sheltering before, during, and possibly after a disaster or emergency. These individuals typically reside in single homes or multiple family dwellings in the State and are not residents of hospitals, residential health care facilities, or any community-based residences or services that are already subject to emergency planning requirements.

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Depending on your frame of reference, or professional background, we have organized this section of the NJOEM website into several sections for easier navigation.

If you have further questions or concerns you may also contact the New Jersey Special Needs Advisory Panel (NJSNAP) at 609-963-6818, NJSNAP or lppgoepm@gw.njsp.org, or visit NJOEM's NJSNAP Web page.

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New Jersey Office of Emergency Management
P. O. Box 7068
Trenton, NJ 08628


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