Disability-Centered Emergency Preparedness

Environmental Justice Lessons From California Wildfires


  • Kimberly Cheung Stanford University


As climate change gives rise to an increasing complexity of threats from natural disasters, there is a rapidly growing need for environmental justice in our emergency response systems. In this paper, I researched the inequitable impacts of California wildfires on individuals with disabilities. The major gap I discovered was a lack of preparedness for individuals with specific electricity requirements, including durable medical equipment and assistive technology. This represents a lack of attention to the unique spectrum of human needs that arise in the face of natural disasters. Between disability activists and government agencies, there is acknowledgement for the need to better support individuals with disabilities throughout emergency preparedness, evacuation, and recovery. However, the question is how? I analyze three major movements — a large-scale corporate program, state-wide disability organization, and community-grounded grassroots movement — to piece together a vision for emergency planning centered on disability justice values. Evidence of the inequities in our current disaster response is clear, and I hope my research provides some insight into how we can move forward to ensuring that #NoBodyIsDisposable.

Keywords: natural disasters, environmental justice, wildfires, disability justice, emergency planning, assistive technology, #NoBodyIsDisposable






Research Articles