The Community Inclusion in Colorado maps (CICOmaps) were created by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and University of Colorado Assistive Technology Partners to enhance current emergency preparedness and response planning and resources by making location-based community information easy-to-access. The maps include community demographics and functional characteristics at the census-tract (sub-county) level. They include the locations, service areas, and phone numbers of community providers and health care facilities.
CDPHE acknowledges that generations-long social, economic, and environmental inequities result in adverse health outcomes. They affect communities differently and have a greater influence on health outcomes than either individual choices or one’s ability to access health care. Reducing health disparities through policies, practices, and organizational systems can help improve opportunities for all Coloradans.
Aimee Voth Siebert, M.A.
CDPHE Disaster Behavioral Health Specialist, Community Inclusion Coordinator
Julia Beems, M.A.
Assistive Technology Program Outreach Coordinator, and Emergency Preparedness Program Coordinator with Assistive Technology Partners
Devon Williford, MPH
CDPHE Geographic Information Systems Unit Manager, Center for Health and Environmental Data
The label “vulnerable,” when applied to a population or community group is disempowering; it implies a weakness that nothing can change. There is no advantage to this approach when we need the whole community to contribute to emergency preparedness and response. A more resilient approach includes all people as experts in knowing how to best meet their own needs. Community inclusion instead of vulnerable populations.
In October 2014, the Community Inclusion in Colorado mapping project was selected by FEMA and ADA National Network as a promising practice for Emergency Management Inclusive of People with Disabilities. The CICO team presented a national webinar on March 12, 2015, describing the development, partnerships, and applications of this project as a possible model for other states or regions to replicate and to enhance the use of community data in their preparedness and response. The CICOmaps were also featured as a poster presentation at the 2015 NACCHO Preparedness Summit in Atlanta, GA and introduced to Emergency Managers at the Colorado Emergency Management Academy.
“Access and Functional Needs” is a term and framework that is helping to promote inclusive emergency preparedness and response. Instead of identifying vulnerable groups, the access and functional needs approach suggests that there are functions and access that everyone needs in emergencies, regardless of who we are. We should build our systems to support everyone achieve these functions and access.
Since CDPHE began mapping data for community inclusion in emergency preparedness, new research and data that support these initiatives has become available.
In 2011, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) published an article in the Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management titled “A Social Vulnerability Index for Disaster Management. [ Flanagan, Barry E.; Gregory, Edward W.; Hallisey, Elaine J.; Heitgerd, Janet L.; and Lewis, Brian (2011) "A Social Vulnerability Index for Disaster Management," Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management: Vol. 8: Iss. 1, Article 3.]. The article argued that “effectively addressing social vulnerability decreases both human suffering and the economic loss related to providing social services and public assistance after a disaster” and identified 15 Census variables for an index of this need from the areas of:
The indicators used in the Community Inclusion in Colorado mapping project comprise these same variables or new variables that identify similar needs. SVI research also helped to guide the development of the Colorado Community Inclusion Regional Opportunity Index.
The American Community Survey continues to expand the indicators it collects each year, and many of them complement CDC’s Social Vulnerability Index. For example, 2012 was the first time that 5-year estimates were available for the disabilities areas incorporated in this project.
Research and information availability continues to make community inclusion in emergency management more viable and better supported.
In December 2011, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) published “A Whole Community Approach to Emergency Management: Principles, Themes and Pathways to Action.” This document represented a major culture change for FEMA: “We fully recognize that a government-centric approach to emergency management is not enough to meet the challenges posed by a catastrophic incident.” Engagement and empowerment of local individuals, families and communities (as “the nation’s most important assets as first responders during a disaster”) and incorporating the composition of the community as well as individual needs of community members (“regardless of age, economics, or accessibility requirements”) into emergency planning and systems became two foundational principles of national emergency management work.
This culture is influencing other emergency management partners. Collectively, energy is building for work that strengthens what works well for communities on a daily basis; includes greater representation and expertise from all communities in emergency preparedness, and integrates the “Access and Functional Needs” of community members into disaster strategies.
This is a movement away from “special needs,” or “vulnerable populations” language that frames communities as at-risk without considering their natural resilience and expertise in finding solutions to their needs. The approach is constructive for emergency response agencies in two ways. 1. Demographics are hard to change, but needs can be met by adaptive, inclusive systems. Vulnerability is where there are ongoing gaps between the community and the systems that serve them. 2. All people may experience functional needs during disasters, whether due to daily characteristics or due to situations caused by the disaster. Planning for needs and embracing the resources of the community helps emergency systems do their work more efficiently and (cost) effectively.
“When the community is engaged in an authentic dialogue, it becomes empowered to identify its needs and the existing resources that may be used to address them. Collectively, we can determine the best ways to organize and strengthen community assets, capacities, and interests.” FEMA: A Whole Community Approach to Emergency Management: Principles, Themes and Pathways to Action
Between 2006-2008, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) used the 2000 Census and statistics from the Colorado Demographers office to begin mapping characteristics within Colorado communities to inform emergency planning. A map series was crafted on the demographic information from the Census; the maps also contained layers of a few resources such as hospitals and medical offices. These historical maps helped to guide the development of the interactive Colorado Community Inclusion maps when the technology was available.
We gratefully acknowledge these colleagues and groups for their contributions to the Colorado Community Inclusion Maps:
• Adam Anderson
• Rachel Coles
• Nichole Rex
• CDHS Office of Early Childhood
Information about our communities can inform response decision-making and strategies. Community characteristics like high population density or more people with mobility difficulty may prompt emergency managers to trigger evacuation orders more quickly if a disaster event is moving into the area. A community where greater numbers of people don’t have access to their own car might prompt the ordering of more transportation resources.