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David Pendered

GEMA, FODAC sign deal for providing wheelchairs, etc during disasters

By David Pendered

Georgia now has a formal arrangement with FODAC to provide medical devices such as wheelchairs and hospital beds to those that need them during catastrophic disasters.

The plan means that Georgians who need durable home medical equipment will be able to look to a single entity to provide the gear they need. The plan also provides for training programs to instruct those who will be working in emergency shelters on how to meet the needs of those who rely on home medical equipment.

FODAC workshop

FODAC workers Melvin Harden (left) and Carlos Ingram refurbish a wheelchair that will be provided to a disabled person at little to no cost. File/Credit: David Pendered

The agreement between Georgia Emergency Management Agency/Homeland Security and FODAC provides for FODAC to store home medical equipment and distribute it through a protocol established by the state and its emergency response partners.

The arrangement provides for FODAC, the acronym of Friends of Disabled Adults and Children, to warehouse the gear and coordinate its delivery and distribution to emergency shelters in conjunction with GEMA, the Department of Human Services, and the American Red Cross of Georgia.

FODAC also will host training sessions at its headquarters in Stone Mountain in conjunction with GEMA, DHS and the Red Cross. Providing this sort of assistance is a role FODAC has performed since it was started in a garage in 1978 by Ed and Annie Butchar, with financial assistance from the Mt. Carmel Christian Church. The program was incorporated as a Georgia non-profit in 1986.

“FODAC has a long, successful history of providing disaster assistance for people with disabilities,” Charley English, director of GEMA/Homeland Security, said in a statement. “With FODAC’s continued partnership for storage and maintenance of the HME, Georgia is much better prepared to accommodate the needs of those with physical limitations in the event of an emergency.”

FODAC now distributes more than $9 million a year in home medical equipment at no cost, or little cost, to the disabled and their families. FODAC distributes nearly 5,000 devices a year, many of them restored at FODAC’s warehouse in Stone Mountain. Just in terms of wheelchairs, FODAC has distributed more than 29,000 since 1986, according to its reports.

The new relationship with GEMA allows FODAC to expand its work in the field of providing durable home medical equipment. The non-profit organization has found people to help through government agencies and service organizations such as the Rotary and Kiwanis.

It also helps GEMA meet guidelines provided by the federal government in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, which were published in its, “Guidance on Planning for Integration of Functional Needs Support Services in General Population Shelters.”

The guidelines aim to ensure that people who have special needs receive it before, during and after public health emergencies.

Even before it had a formal arrangement with the state, FODAC responded to the guidelines by creating what it called a “disability shelter kit,” again working together with the Red Cross. The kit included common home medical equipment items such as wheelchairs, portable ramps, hospital beds, bathroom aids, and patient lifts – all items that are basic requirements, but which can be overlooked in the process of rescuing a person from a life-threatening emergency.

“Most individuals with access and functional needs can be accommodated in a general population shelter with minimal support,” Chris Brand, FODAC’s president, said in a statement.

“FODAC’s pre-packaged disability shelter kits can be easily incorporated into existing shelter plans and resources without incurring excessive additional costs,” Brand said. “Along with the equipment delivered, FODAC will send trained delivery technicians who can assist the local emergency managers by matching the items correctly.”


David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.


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