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State to build storm shelters for disabled

Also, a statewide disabilities coordinator will focus on needs before and after hurricanes.

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published June 10, 2007


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Gov. Charlie Crist announced Saturday that three special-needs hurricane shelters will be constructed in Florida and he will create a commission for people with disabilities and appoint a coordinator to oversee operations.

The state-owned shelters, to be run by the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, will be in Gainesville, Marianna and Fort Myers, said Crist.

He made the announcement in Orlando during a three-day convention for people with disabilities.

"This is common sense and it's the right thing to do, " Crist said.

"These facilities will be equipped to handle the unique needs of persons with disabilities in the event of storms."

The shelters will be self-sufficient, with electric generators, independent water sources and food service.

Each site will contain several buildings. The total capacity of all three shelters will be 7, 000 people.

Crist did not give details on when construction would start or the cost of the shelters. Hurricane season began June 1.

Crist said he also plans to sign an executive order later this month, creating a commission of experts and advocates to research and analyze legislation, policies and other state issues that affect people with disabilities.

The Governor's Commission on Disabilities will take effect in July and will replace the Working Group on Americans with Disabilities, enacted under Gov. Jeb Bush, that expires next month.

"I look forward to our providing a forum for disability advocates to come together and explore creative solutions to meet the needs of persons with disabilities and their caregivers, " said Jane Johnson, executive director of the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, in a statement.

The commission will hold regional summits across the state and focus on maximizing the independence of Floridians with disabilities, with an emphasis on employment, transportation, education and independent living.

A statewide disabilities coordinator, to be established by the Agency for Persons with Disabilities and the Division of Emergency Management, will focus on the needs of people with disabilities before and after hurricanes and other major weather events, Crist said.

"It is important for Florida to have an emergency management professional looking out for the unique disaster-related needs of persons with disabilities, " Craig Fugate, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, said in a statement.

The coordinator will ensure that the agency and local service providers have continuity of operations plans to be implemented during a threat of imminent disaster.

"Persons with disabilities deserve to fully integrate into our communities in every way possible, " Crist said.

[Last modified June 10, 2007, 00:42:47]


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