Access and Functional Needs


Access and Functional Needs (AFN) refers to individuals with and without disabilities, who may need additional assistance because of any condition. That may limit their ability to act in an emergency.

No two disasters are the same, yet all have a disproportionate effect on our most vulnerable populations - individuals with access and functional needs (AFN) such as people with disabilities, older adults, children, those with limited English proficiency, and those with transportation disadvantage. Nevada Division of Emergency Management (DEM) works hard to use a whole-community approach, offering training and guidance to emergency managers & planners, disability advocates, and other service providers to plan for, respond to, and help communities recover from disasters. DEM understands the realities of disasters and takes steps to ensure AFN are incorporated into everything we do.   

DEM's AFN coordinator assists with identifying the needs of individuals with disabilities and others with access or functional needs before, during, and after disasters and to integrate them into the State’s emergency management plans and systems.  DEM’s AFN coordinator plans for the realities of disasters by integrating access and functional needs into everything the division does including partnership development, outreach, training, guidance and providing technical assistance. DEM’s goal is to ensure all Nevadans are prepared for and supported during an emergency.

What are Accessible and Functional Needs?

  • A Range Of Seating Options (E.g. With Armrests & Without)
  • Level Access Throughout
  • Quiet Spaces
  • Accessible Toilets
  • Induction Loops
  • Alt-text Image Descriptions
  • Audio-described Videos
  • No Flashing / Strobing Lights
  • Clear Allergy Labeling
  • Automatic Doors
  • Easy-read Versions
  • Durable Spaces Anchoring Larger, Unstable Furnishings
  • Scent-free Spaces
  • Tactile Paving & Floor Tiles
  • Wide Doors & Floor Tiles
  • Ramps
  • Handrails
  • Content Warnings
  • Accurate Captioning & Transcripts
  • Sign Language Interpretation
  • Braille & Large Print Formats For Text

Defining Access and Functional Needs

Access to emergency services shall not be denied on the grounds of color, national origin, sex, age, sexual orientation, or functional needs. Access and Functional Needs Populations (also referred to as priority populations) are members of the community who experience physical, mental, or medical care needs and who may require assistance before, during, and after an emergency after exhausting their usual resources and support network.

 Examples of individuals who have Access and Functional Needs include, but are not limited to:   

  • Individuals with Limited Mobility: Individuals who use assistive devices or equipment for walking or mobility, e.g., wheelchairs, walkers, or crutches.  
  • Individuals who are Blind: Individuals who are blind or have low vision, night blindness, color blindness, impaired depth perception, etc.   
  • Individuals who are Deaf, Deaf-Blind, Hard of Hearing: Individuals who are deaf have situational loss of hearing or limited-range hearing.  
  • Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities: An intellectual disability is a disability characterized by significant limitations both in intellectual functioning (e.g., reasoning, learning, problem solving) and in adaptive behavior.  
  • Older Adults and Children: Individuals whose chronological age may impact their physical or cognitive abilities and who may need assistance with daily activities.  
  • Individuals who are Limited or Non-English Speaking: Individuals who have a limited ability or no ability to speak, read, write, or fully understand English.   
  • Individuals Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer & Questioning, Intersex, Asexual and Aromantic (LGBTQIA+): Individuals within disaster and emergency services infrastructure who may be further marginalized by discrimination, abuse, and overlapping marginalized identities that exacerbate impacts. 
  • Single Parent Households/Families with deployed members: Households that are characterized by either having only one adult who is responsible for both financial support and caregiving, or households where the primary caregiver is absent from the home due to deployment for disaster relief or work-related obligations. In such cases, the household lacks the presence of an additional resource to provide support and assistance.  
  • Individuals and Families with Limited Resources: Individuals who may not have the resources available to meet their own or their family’s needs.  
  • Individuals Experiencing Homelessness, Unhoused, or Transitional Housing: Includes persons in shelters, on the streets or temporarily housed -- transitional, safe houses for women and minors.  
  • Individuals Experiencing Domestic Violence: Individual living with domestic violence or who are domestic violence survivors.  
  • Refugee & Immigrant Communities (New Americans): Persons who may have difficulty accessing information or services due to cultural differences or unfamiliarity, and possibility distrust of governmental systems.  
  • Undocumented Persons: Individuals who do not have the required documentation to be permanent or temporary residents of the United States.  
  • Individuals with Psychological Disability: Individuals who have a diagnosed mental health condition or psychological disability as well as those who may have one that is undiagnosed.  
  • Individuals Requiring Supervision: Individuals unable to safely survive independently, attend to personal care or activities of daily living, etc.  
  • Individuals with Medical Needs: Individuals who take medication or need equipment to sustain life or control conditions for quality of life—i.e., diabetic; weakened immune systems, those who cannot be in/use public accommodations.  
  • People Who are Dependent on Drugs or Alcohol: Includes people who use legal or illegal substances including injectable drugs and who would experience withdrawal.  
  • Clients of Criminal Justice System: Individuals who are currently or have been previously incarcerated, on parole, under house arrest, or who are registered sex offenders. This includes current clients of the juvenile justice system.   
  • Emerging or Transient Specific Needs: Needs/conditions due to emergency, temporary conditions—i.e., loss of glasses, broken leg, tourists/visitors needing care.  

Simply put, people with “Access and Functional Needs” includes individuals who need assistance due to any condition (temporary or permanent) that limits their ability to take action. To have access and functional needs does not require that the individual have any kind of diagnosis or specific evaluation. 

Prepare Now Before a Disaster Occurs

There are many ways to take action and prepare before a disaster occurs. As you prepare your plan tailor your plans and supplies to your specific daily living needs and responsibilities. Discuss your needs and responsibilities and how people in your network can assist each other with communication, care of children, business, pets, or specific needs like operating medical equipment. Here are several interactive fillable documents to help yourself, your family, and your community increase your preparedness measures.

Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

  • Builds community competence on skills needed to survive during emergencies and disasters to build up better community resilience. 
  • Supports identification of individuals as well as community resource needs and capacity.
  • Supports emergency management practices committed to making programs, benefits, services, facilities, practical information, communication, and technology accessible to everyone.

Whole Community Approach

  • By instilling equity as a foundation of emergency management and integrating the access & functional needs of the whole community in preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation activities, we are building a more resilient Nevada.
  • This ensures everyone has access to resources in order to function during an emergency and / or disaster.
  • Engaging public, private, and civic in building community competence on skills needed to survive emergencies and disasters.

CMIST Framework

Individuals with access and functional needs (AFN), such as adults with disabilities, may have additional needs that must be considered in planning for, responding to, and recovering from a disaster or public health emergency. The CMIST framework provides a memory tool to plan and operationalize five basic functional needs categories that should be addressed in an emergency or disaster.

Communication - People with communication needs may have limited ability to hear announcements, see signs, understand messages, or verbalize their concerns.
Maintaining Health - Individuals who require medications, supplies, services, medical equipment, electricity for life maintaining equipment, breastfeeding, infant and child care, nutrition, etc.
Independence - Ensuring that a person's access and functional needs are addressed as long as they are not separated from their mobility devices, assistive technology, service animals, etc.
Support, Safety And Self Determination - Individuals who have lost caregiver assistance, experience confusion, or are victims or abuse, requiring support for personal safety. Self- determination means retaining the ability to self-direct and control over services and supports that are offered to them.
Transportation - Ensuring that a person's access and functional needs are addressed as long as they are not separated from their mobility devices, assistive technology, service animals, etc. 

The Nevada Emergency Manager Access and Functional Needs Integration Guide

The Access and Functional Needs Resource and Implementation Guide aims to present an operative structure for implementing CMIST (Communications, Maintain Health, Independence, Support, and Transportation), a public health framework when planning for our vulnerable populations. It combines CMIST with POETE (Planning, Organizing, Equipping, Training, and Exercising), an emergency management process. This blend of the public health and emergency management worlds is essential, as every incident involves public health.

DEM Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion / Access and Functional Needs Coordinator

Heather Lafferty