Archive for December, 2009

Happy Christmas & Let’s All Stay Safe In Our Homes !

2009-12-20:  ‘T’is the Season to be jolly !   It is also the time when we remember family and friends … far and near … and those souls, no longer with us, who remain in our hearts.  Happy Christmas everyone !   And it will be better in 2010 !!

As a special treat … let’s keep Uncle Gaybo (a famous Irish television personality) happy … and give each other the gift of ‘Safety’ !


In a previous post concerning the MACLAREN Baby Strollers, I referred to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).  A few days ago, on 14th December 2009, the Commission issued the following Seasonal Press Release #10-065 …

Ten Tips to Keep Your Holiday Home Fire and Injury Free: Fires Lead the List of Hazards Related to Holiday Decorations

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As the holiday season approaches, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is urging consumers to make safety a factor in holiday decorating.  Whether it is careful candle placement or checking the warning label on the holiday lights, simple safety steps can go a long way in preventing fires and injuries this year.

Annually, during the two months surrounding the holiday season, more than 14,000 people are treated in hospital emergency rooms due to injuries related to holiday decorating.  In addition, Christmas trees are involved in hundreds of fires resulting in an average of 15 deaths and $13 million dollars in property damage annually.  Candle-related fires lead the list of hazards averaging more than 12,000 a year, resulting in 150 deaths and $393 million in property damage.

“Holiday decorating related fires and injuries most often involve defective holiday lights, unattended candles and dried-out Christmas trees”, said CPSC Chairperson Inez Tenenbaum.  “We are providing this list of 10 Simple Safety Steps to help keep your holiday home safe.”

Use the Following 10 Safety Tips when Decorating This Year:

Christmas Trees & Decorations

1.    When purchasing an Artificial Tree, DO look for the label “Fire Resistant”.  Although this label does not mean the tree won’t catch fire, it does indicate the tree is more resistant to catching fire.  [In Ireland, ask anyway !]

2.    When purchasing a Live Tree, DO check for freshness.  A fresh tree is green, needles are hard to pull from branches and do not break when bent between your fingers.  The bottom of a fresh tree is sticky with resin, and when tapped on the ground, the tree should not lose many needles.

3.    When Setting Up A Tree at home, DO place it away from heat sources such as fireplaces, vents, and radiators.  Because heated rooms dry out live trees rapidly, be sure to monitor water levels and keep the stand filled with water.  Place the tree out of the way of traffic, and do not block doorways.

4.    In homes with Young Children, DO take special care to avoid sharp, weighted or breakable decorations, keep trimmings with small removable parts out of the reach of children who could swallow or inhale small pieces, and avoid trimmings that resemble sweets or food that may tempt a child to eat them.

Christmas Lights

5.    Indoors or Outside, DO use only lights that have been tested for safety by an independent, accredited testing laboratory … such as UL (USA) or TÜV (Germany).

6.    Check each Set of Lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections.  Throw out, and carefully dispose of, damaged sets.  DON’T use electric lights on a metallic tree.

7.    If using an Electric Extension Cable, DO make sure it is rated for the intended use.

8.    When using Lights Outdoors, DO check labels to be sure the lights have been approved for outdoor use and only plug them into an external, weather and circuit-breaker protected socket outlet.


9.    Always keep Burning Candles within sight.  DO extinguish all candles before you go to bed, leave the room or leave the house.

10.  DO keep Lighted Candles away from items that can catch fire and burn easily, such as trees, other evergreens, decorations, curtains and furniture.

Get more Christmas Decorating Safety Tips at CPSC’s WebSite …


My Questions:  In Ireland … is our Consumer Protection Legislation adequate ?   More importantly … is compliance adequately monitored ?   Relating to the critical area of fire safety in the home … do we have any, or sufficient, independent and accredited product testing laboratories ?




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BER Certificates – A Major Infra-Red Survey in Paris (VIII)

2009-12-19:  Still recovering from the shock of the 2009 Copenhagen Accord (!!!) … something has to be said before talking about Paris or France again.  It’s funny looking back, now, to last November …

Wednesday Evening (2009-11-18) – Soccer World Cup Play-Off – Ireland v France – Stade de France 

I admit it … I was not a believer before the match … and was expecting that Ireland would be blown out of the stadium.  However … at the kick-off, I found myself glued to the television.  It was a blatant, intentional and obvious handball by Thierry Henry.  There might be a simple explanation … perhaps, he is a fan of Gaelic Football and somebody gave him a present of a DVD last Christmas !

Après le Match en Irlande 

There is nothing so boring as listening to the English go on … and on … and on … and on … about that 1986 Diego Maradona Goal.  Pay-back time for Las Malvinas ?   In Ireland, let’s stop the whinging … and move on.  We can be a great team – not just a good team – at the next European Championships in 2012 !

Anyway … back to Paris

Colour photograph of a Multi-Storey Paris Apartment Block (1975-81).  Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph of a Multi-Storey Paris Apartment Block (1975-81). Click to enlarge.

Early last spring (2009) … as a Special Project in preparation for Copenhagen … some very intelligent people in the Office of the City Mayor (who understand the value, but also the limitations, of marketing campaigns !) … organized that 500 typical buildings of the city, from each of the different historical periods up to the present day, would be surveyed using Infra-Red Thermography.  To complement the building surveys … an aerial survey of the whole city was also carried out.  The results will be placed in the public domain … for all in Paris to see … during 2010.

Colour thermograph of the Same Multi-Storey Paris Apartment Block (1975-81).  Parts of the building where most heat is being lost are shown in red.  An accompanying vertical surface temperature scale is also shown on the right of the image.  Click to enlarge.

Colour thermograph of the Same Multi-Storey Paris Apartment Block (1975-81). Parts of the building where most heat is being lost are shown in red. An accompanying vertical surface temperature scale is also shown on the right of the image. Click to enlarge.







The following Project Description was contained in the French Design e-Newsletter ‘Maison à Part’ (, dated Friday 23rd October 2009.  This description is more interesting and informative than a similar description on the City Mayor’s WebSite ( !


Une Thermographie Parisienne Instructive … 

Colour photograph of a Multi-Storey Paris Block of Flats (1945-67).  Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph of a Multi-Storey Paris Block of Flats (1945-67). Click to enlarge.

A l’occasion des Journées Parisiennes de l’Énergie et du Climat du 22 au 25 Octobre 2009, la ville de Paris présente pour la première fois les résultats de la campagne de photographies en infrarouge de la capitale.  Cette carte thermographique permet d’analyser les bâtiments énergivores.



Colour thermograph of the Same Multi-Storey Paris Block of Flats (1945-67).  Parts of the building where most heat is being lost are shown in red.  An accompanying vertical surface temperature scale is also shown on the right of the image.  Click to enlarge.

Colour thermograph of the Same Multi-Storey Paris Block of Flats (1945-67). Parts of the building where most heat is being lost are shown in red. An accompanying vertical surface temperature scale is also shown on the right of the image. Click to enlarge.



A six semaines de l’ouverture de la Conférence des Nations-Unies sur le Changement Climatique à Copenhague, la ville souhaite montrer son engagement dans la lutte contre le réchauffement climatique.  C’est tout l’objet des deuxièmes journées parisiennes énergie et climat, qui se tiendront du 22 au 25 Octobre au Palais Brongniart à Paris.  L’occasion également de découvrir pour la première fois, lors d’une exposition, une carte thermographique des immeubles parisiens.  Réalisée sur 500 bâtiments de style et d’âge différents, elle permet de se rendre compte de toutes les déperditions d’énergie et de trouver ainsi les solutions adéquates.  Chaque Parisien pourra ainsi découvrir sur une carte géante de Paris, son immeuble et sa performance énergétique.


Des Prises de Vue Révélatrices … 

Colour photograph of a Large Paris Residence (Before 1850).  Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph of a Large Paris Residence (Before 1850). Click to enlarge.

Mais d’où viennent ces photos ?   “La nuit du vendredi 6 mars 2009, l’ensemble du territoire parisien a été thermographié depuis un avion” est-il expliqué.  “La thermographie aérienne est une technique qui permet de mesurer la température à la surface des toitures à l’aide d’une caméra infrarouge et d’analyser la déperdition de chaleur des constructions.”   Ainsi, “plus le toit apparaît rouge, plus il est chaud, ce qui signifie qu’une partie de l’énergie dépensée pour chauffer le logement est en fait perdue dans l’atmosphère.”  Une campagne de prises de vue des façades à l’aide d’une caméra thermique – l’hiver en début de soirée, lorsque le thermomètre est en dessous de 5°C – réalisée par la ville permet de compléter l’ensemble.

“Chaque grande période de construction à Paris est analysée sous l’angle architectural et thermique, avec des préconisations de travaux pour chacune” précise les organisateurs de l’exposition.


Colour thermograph of the Same Large Paris Residence (Before 1850).  Parts of the building where most heat is being lost are shown in red.  An accompanying vertical surface temperature scale is also shown on the right of the image.  Click to enlarge.

Colour thermograph of the Same Large Paris Residence (Before 1850). Parts of the building where most heat is being lost are shown in red. An accompanying vertical surface temperature scale is also shown on the right of the image. Click to enlarge.



Courant 2010, un Site Internet représentant chaque type d’immeuble devrait être mis en place, grâce auquel chacun pourra “tirer des préconisations générales” en matière d’économies d’énergie pour son propre immeuble, même si “cette photographie ne remplace pas un diagnostic thermique”, a précisé à l’AFP l’adjoint à l’environnement de la Mairie de Paris, Denis Baupin.  Le Site montrera quatre photos de façade par bâtiment, la couleur rouge symbolisant les pertes d’énergie les plus importantes.




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Harmonized Indicators of Building GHG & Energy Performance

[ BER Certificates (VII) : UNFCCC COP-15 : CIB W108 – Climate Change and the Built Environment ]

2009-12-18:  Even before the gatherings of UNFCCC COP-15 & Kyoto Protocol MOP-5 began … some remarkably positive progress on difficult technical issues had already been made at international level.  Hot off the presses … comes an important document from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Sustainable Buildings & Construction Initiative (SBCI): ‘Common Carbon Metric’ (December 2009), which was specifically prepared for presentation at Copenhagen.

Leading experts from around the world have developed a standardized method of measuring a building’s carbon footprint … allowing greenhouse gas emissions from buildings anywhere in the world to be consistently assessed and compared.  In the case of existing buildings, improvements can also be measured.

This harmonized method for MRV (Measurable, Reportable & Verifiable) GHG Emissions and Energy Use provides the basis for establishing baselines, performance benchmarking, and monitoring building performance improvements.  These activities are, in turn, fundamental in informing international mechanisms for carbon trading, policy development and analysis, and progress reporting on the mitigation of GHG Emissions from buildings.  Policy and decision makers can produce reports from the data collected through these Metrics/Indicators for jurisdictions, regions, large building stock owners, cities or at a national level to form baselines that can be used to set targets and show improvements in carbon mitigation throughout the building sector.

I am pleased to say that Monsieur Jean-Luc Salagnac (CSTB France), Co-Ordinator of CIB Working Commission 108 : Climate Change and the Built Environment, was directly involved in its development …

Colour image showing the cover page of the UNEP-SBCI 'Common Carbon Metric', recently published in December 2009.  Click to enlarge.

Colour image showing the cover page of the UNEP-SBCI ‘Common Carbon Metric’, recently published in December 2009. Click to enlarge.

 UNEP-SBCI ‘Common Carbon Metric’ (December 2009)  for measuring, reporting and verifying (mrv) greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption of buildings in use.

Click the Link above to read/download PDF File (1.97 MB)


Recommendations on Implementing the New Harmonized Approach

All research, design and teaching disciplines involved in the European Building Sector … extending right across to any person who works on a construction site or has any part to play in managing, maintaining, servicing or operating a building … should familiarize himself/herself/themselves with the contents of this document.

As soon as practicable … calculation methods, computer software packages, reports, BER Certificates, etc … and working practices generally … should all be revised and updated to take account of this newly harmonized approach.

Whatever the outcome from Copenhagen in December 2009 … in terms of the presentation of priorities … these should now be switched around … with a strong first emphasis being placed on ‘GHG Emissions’ from Buildings … followed by, and secondly, ‘Energy Consumption’ resulting from the Use/Occupation of Buildings.

What is Measured in the UNEP-SBCI ‘Common Carbon Metric’ ?

While all stages of a building’s life cycle produce GHG Emissions, building use accounts for 80-90% of these emissions … resulting from energy consumed mainly for heating, cooling, ventilation, lighting and electric/electronic appliances.  This, therefore, is the stage of the building’s life cycle that is the focus of the ‘Common Carbon Metric’.

The following Metrics/Indicators shall be used to compile consistent and comparable data:

1.  Energy Intensity = kWh/m2/year (kilo Watt hours per square metre per year)

Scope: Emissions associated with building energy end-use defined in Appendix 1 are included; purchased electricity, purchased ‘coolth'(opposite of warmth)/steam/heat, and/or on-site generated power used to support the building operations.  If available, emissions associated with fugitives and refrigerants used in building operations should be reported separately.

If available, occupancy data should be correlated with the building area to allow Energy Intensity per occupant (o) to be calculated = kWh/o/year.

GHG Emissions are calculated by multiplying the above Energy Intensity times the official GHG emission coefficients, for the year of reporting, for each fuel source used (see Appendix 3).

2.  Carbon Intensity = kgCO2e/m2/year or kgCO2e/o/year (kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalent per square metre or per occupant per year)

Note: GHG conversion factors for each fuel type shall be the same as those used under national reporting for flexible mechanisms for the Kyoto Protocol for the six GHG Gases (see Appendix 4).

Why Buildings ?

The environmental footprint of the Building Sector includes: 40% of energy use, 30% raw materials use, 25% of solid waste, 25% water use, and 12% of land use.  While this new document focuses on the scope of emissions related to energy use of building operations (see Appendix 1), future metrics are required to address these other impacts in addition to social and financial impacts.  At this time the UN’s top priority is climate change … and the building sector is responsible for more than one third of Global GHG Emissions and is, in most countries, the largest emissions source.  While 80-90% of the energy used by the building is consumed during the use (or operational) stage of a building’s life cycle (for heating, cooling, ventilation, lighting, appliances, etc.), the other 10-20% (figure varies according to the life of the building), is consumed during extraction and processing of raw materials, manufacturing of products, construction and de-construction.  Furthermore, significant energy is used in transporting occupants, goods and services to and from the building.

The UNEP-WMO Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 4th Assessment Report estimated that building-related GHG Emissions reached 8.6 billion metric tons (t) CO2equivalent (e) in 2004, and could nearly double by 2030, reaching 15.6 billion tCO2e under their high-growth scenario.  The report further concluded that the building sector has the largest potential for reducing GHG Emissions and is relatively independent of the price of carbon reduction (cost per tCO2e) applied.  With proven and commercially available technologies, the energy consumption in both new and existing buildings can be cut by an estimated 30-50% without significantly increasing investment costs.  Energy savings can be achieved through a range of measures including smart design, improved insulation, low-energy appliances, high efficiency ventilation and heating/cooling systems, and conservation behaviour by building occupants.




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FCCC COP-15: Historical Responsibility & Poverty Reduction ?

2009-12-16:  ‘Chaotic’ is not the only word to describe what is happening right now in Copenhagen !   A few additional parliamentary expletives are required.  Is it just me … or is it obvious to everyone … that the Danes could not organize an orgy at an International Golf Tournament ?

What the world urgently needed was an ambitious, legally binding agreement … a Kyoto II Protocol, for want of a better title … to slot into place when the 1st Commitment Period ends in 2012.  What we may end up with is an ambiguous ‘political’ agreement … which will be worth approximately 1 cent more than the paper on which it will be scrawled.

There is something definitely rotten in the State of Denmark !   Multiple drafts of the same working document circulating at the same time … backroom meetings away from public scrutiny … greedy developed countries trying to avoid responsibility and action … strutting, self-important NGO’s thinking that they know all the answers … etc., etc … kill any confidence in the process stone dead.  These are not the ways of Sustainable Social Partnership.

However … at a far distance from the hustle and bustle … it can be observed that Interesting Side Events are taking place … and Thought Provoking Reports are being presented … before, during and after the main gatherings between the 7th and 18th December 2009:

  • 15th Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP-15) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) ;
  • 5th Meeting of the Parties (MOP-5) to the Kyoto Protocol.


African Countries are not the only Group having difficulty with what is/is not happening in Copenhagen …

Two recent Discussion Papers from The Energy & Resources Institute (TERI), in India, are worth bringing to your attention.  Both raise issues which are not very popular in this part of the world.  And … it so happens that Dr. Rajendra K Pachauri – Director-General of TERI … is also Chairman of the WMO-UNEP Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) !

  1. Right to Sustainable Development: An Ethical Approach to Climate Change (December 2009), by Leena Srivastava, Neha Pahuja, Manish Shrivastava & Prabhat Upadhyay.  PDF File, 228 Kb.  Click link to read and/or download.  Discusses ideas such as: ‘equity’, ‘fairness’, ‘historical responsibility’ (of UNFCCC Annex I Countries), ‘climate justice’, etc.
  2. Linking Climate Action & Poverty Alleviation – An Approach to Informed Decision-Making (December 2009), by Atul Kumar.  PDF File, 488 Kb.  Click link to read and/or download.


To gain worldwide acceptance – across developed, developing and least developed regions of the world – and to have a reasonable chance of reliable implementation in those disparate regions … mitigation of, and adaptation to, climate change, including variability and extremes, must be fully compatible with the concept of Sustainable Human & Social Development.  This is clearly elaborated in both the 1992 UNFCCC and the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.

To be clear among ourselves on this island … Ireland is specifically named (without any qualification), among other Developed Countries … in Annex I and Annex II of the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) … and in Annex B of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which is legally binding.  The European Union is not mentioned, at all, in either document.

It is of concern to note that although India ratified the 2006 United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in October 2007 – TERI (India) has very recently placed a Document (No.1 above) in the public domain, at Copenhagen, which actively forbids content extraction by people with activity limitations for the purposes of equitable accessibility !   Joined-up thinking !?!?




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Autumn Scenes At Glendalough – Ripples Through Time ?

2009-12-07:   The beauty of the Irish countryside is hard to beat.  A few dry days are all we need … and to be able to see the sun occasionally !   Make that … more than occasionally !!

Colour photograph of 'Upper Lake at Glendalough' - Autumn Scene.  Click to enlarge.  Photograph taken by CJ Walsh.  2009-10-26.

Colour photograph of ‘Upper Lake at Glendalough’ – Autumn Scene. Click to enlarge. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2009-10-26.

It is breathtaking to imagine the Climatic & Geological Upheavals – hundreds of thousands of years ago – which created the Valley of Two Lakes: ‘Gleann Dá Locha’ in Irish, or ‘Glendalough’ in English.

Colour photograph of 'Autumn Trees' at Glendalough, County Wicklow, Ireland.  Click to enlarge.  Photograph taken by CJ Walsh.  2009-10-26.

Colour photograph of ‘Autumn Trees’ at Glendalough, County Wicklow, Ireland. Click to enlarge. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2009-10-26.

 It is comforting to know that we once had – hundreds of years ago – a Better System of Irish Law: ‘Féineachas’ in Irish, or more commonly known as ‘Brehon Law’ in English.




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Emergency Planning For ALL & Special Needs Populations ?

On 15th August 2008, the United States Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), in association with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office for Civil Rights & Civil Liberties, published Comprehensive Preparedness Guide #301: ‘Interim Emergency Management Planning Guide for Special Needs Populations’.

What follows are important extracts from CPG #301.  As you slowly read along … consider the chaotic, clapped-out and ramshackle response, at national level, to the Flood Emergency in Ireland

Throughout the history of Emergency Management Planning, considerations for Special Needs Populations have often been inadequate.  From the 1930’s, when disaster response was ad hoc and largely focused on the repair of damaged infrastructure, through to the present day, emergency management culture of ‘readiness’, special needs populations were often given insufficient consideration.  This fact was evident in 2003 during the California wildfires and when Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast in 2005.  During these events, some individuals with special needs did not receive appropriate warning, were unable to access shelters, or went without medical intervention.  During the 2006 Nationwide Plan Review, a sample of emergency management plans was reviewed by subject-matter experts on disability and ageing.  The review confirmed that emergency plans from various regions in the United States continue to overlook these populations.  The Nationwide Plan Review Phase 2 Report concluded that “substantial improvement is necessary to integrate people with disabilities into emergency planning and readiness”.

Numerous ‘lessons learned’ reports that followed Hurricane Katrina also pointed out that there is a large segment of the U.S. population who may not be able to successfully plan for, and respond to, an emergency with resources typically accessible to the general population.  The current general population is one that is diverse, ageing, and focused on maintaining independence as long as possible.  The popularity of living situations that provide an ‘as needed’ level of care in the least restrictive manner is fast becoming the norm.  Consideration should therefore be given to people who may be able to function independently under normal situations, but who may need assistance in an emergency situation.

For example, it is estimated that about 13 million individuals aged 50 years or older in the United States will need evacuation assistance, and about half of these individuals will require such assistance from someone outside of their household.  There are well over 1 million people in the United States receiving home healthcare according to 2000 data cited by the National Center for Health Care Statistics.  Populations such as these should be considered when emergency plans are developed to accurately assess the resources needed to adequately respond when a disaster strikes.  The 2000 Census reported that 18% of those surveyed speak a language other than English at home.  This highlights the need to ensure the effectiveness of emergency communications.  Populations described as ‘transportation disadvantaged’ – those who do not have access to a personal vehicle or are precluded from driving – may also require assistance during emergencies.  The 2000 Census reports that in the top ten car-less cities, between 29% and 56% of the households are without a vehicle.  These examples serve to demonstrate community emergency planning should go beyond traditional considerations.

During the Nationwide Plan Review, Emergency Managers consistently requested technical assistance in identifying and incorporating special needs populations into emergency planning.  As described later, defining the term ‘special needs’ is a critical initial step in the planning process.  The Federal Government introduced, within the National Response Framework (NRF), a definition of special needs populations that State, Territorial, Tribal, and Local governments may adopt for use in their Emergency Operation Plan (EOP) development.  It is important to note that though this terminology may appear ambiguous, it is well established in the Emergency Management Vocabulary and when clearly defined, strengthens the planning process.

Although it is recognized that significant emergency planning should be done for incarcerated populations, these groups cannot be integrated into general population planning.  Individuals in correctional settings are institutionalized to protect other members of society; people who are institutionalized in health related settings are there for their own protection and wellbeing.  Emergency management planning for incarcerated populations requires additional consideration such as law enforcement and co-ordination between emergency managers, the Department of Corrections, and prison superintendents to ensure safety of the prisoners and the public.  For these reasons, incarcerated populations are not included in the NRF definition of ‘special needs’, which is the same definition used in this Planning Guide.


U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) CPG #301

Date: 15 August 2008.  PDF File, 301kb.

Interim Emergency Management Planning Guide for Special Needs Populations

Click the link above to read and/or download CPG #301


Emergency Management takes into consideration planning for the safety of every person in the community during and following a disaster.  Taking into consideration populations historically considered ‘vulnerable’, ‘at risk’, or ‘special needs’, ultimately improves the overall community’s post-disaster sustainability.

Before drafting Emergency Plans, it is recommended that a state-wide definition for the term ‘special needs’ be developed and used to guide State, Territorial, Tribal, and Local jurisdictions in the planning process.  A consistent use of terminology will result in improved communication and co-ordination of resources across State, Territorial, Tribal, and Local entities.

The NRF Definition for ‘special needs’ provides a function-based approach for planning and seeks to establish a flexible framework that addresses a broad set of common function-based needs, irrespective of specific diagnosis, statuses, or labels (e.g. children, older people, transportation disadvantaged, etc.).  In other words, this function-based definition reflects the capabilities of the individual, not the condition or label.  Governments that choose to align their language to the NRF definition will improve inter-government communication during an incident.

The Definition of Special Needs Populations, as it appears in the U.S. National Response Framework (NRF) is as follows:

Populations whose members may have additional needs before, during, and after an incident in functional areas, including but not limited to:

–   Maintaining Independence ;

–   Communication ;

–   Transportation ;

–   Supervision ;

–   Medical Care.

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

[The concept of a function-based approach to defining special needs populations has been developed by June Isaacson Kailes.  See Kailes, J. and Enders, A. in “Moving Beyond ‘Special Needs’: A Function-Based Framework for Emergency Management Planning”.  Journal of Disability Policy Studies, Vol./No. 44/2007.  Pages 230-237.]

At first glance, it may appear that each of the above groups (and a disproportionately large percentage of the population) is automatically classified as having special needs, but this is not the case.  The definition indicates these groups may often include individuals who have special needs and, in the event of an emergency, may need additional assistance or specialized resources.  For example, in a city like New York where less than half of all households own a car, transportation-dependence is not necessarily a ‘special need’.  A special need in this instance is an inability to access the transportation alternatives defined by the Emergency Operation Plan (EOP).  It is important to remember that special needs populations have needs that extend beyond those of the general population.

The definition focuses on the following function-based aspects:

  • Maintaining Independence – Individuals requiring support to be independent in daily activities may lose this support during an emergency or a disaster.  Such support may include consumable medical supplies (baby diapers, formula, bandages, continence supplies, etc.), durable medical equipment (wheelchairs, walkers, scooters, etc.), service animals, and/or attendants or caregivers.  Supplying needed support to these individuals will enable them to maintain their pre-disaster level of independence.
  • Communication – Individuals who have limitations which interfere with the receipt of and response to information will need that information provided in format they can understand and use.  They may not be able to hear verbal announcements, see directional signs, or understand how to get assistance due to 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 which 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.

 The above examples illustrate function-based needs that may exist within the community.


Important Conclusions for Ireland & Europe Generally:

1.  The innovative approach taken to Special Needs Populations in U.S. FEMA Comprehensive Preparedness Guide #301 is entirely consistent with European concepts of ‘mainstreaming’, ‘accessibility for all’, ‘fire safety, protection and evacuation for all’, etc … and the widespread, standardized and consistent use of the language and terminology in the 2001 World Health Organization (WHO) International Classification of Functioning, Disability & Health (ICF) … an approach which I have long advocated across Europe.

2.  Fragmentation of the Irish Special Needs Population, dissention between different groups within that population or a lack of willingness to work with other groups … the use of far too many ad-hoc labels … and the anarchic abuse of disability-related language and terminology … pose a grave risk to the Safety, Health and Wellbeing of all these groups in Emergencies, whether large or small scale … and create unnecessary, and sometimes insurmountable, barriers to effective communication and the proper co-ordination of emergency response resources.  This problem is deep-rooted and endemic throughout Europe.

3.  French use of the words, e.g. ‘les handicapés’, ‘les invalides’, is both outdated and barbaric.  Similarly, German use of the word ‘die behinderten’ is unacceptable.  A concerted effort, at European level, must be made to modernize and harmonize the use of disability-related terminology in our many different languages.  Large Scale Emergencies in Europe, involving 2, 3 or more E.U. Member States, require … as a priority … effective communication and the proper co-ordination of emergency response resources.




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December 2009
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