Know Your Rights During Wildfires and Other Disasters

Social service agencies should provide disaster-related assistance without asking for information or documents

Fire season is upon us. At the moment, there are no fires in San Diego or Imperial County, but we are monitoring a fire in San Bernardino. Please watch our Twitter and Facebook pages for updates. Our thoughts are with all the families in harm’s way.

In 2007, wildfires ravaged huge swaths of San Diego County. In a series of breakdowns in policies, procedures, and standards, many of our county’s most vulnerable residents affected by the devastating wildfires were denied emergency services in their time of greatest need.

Within a week of the fires’ breakout, the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties, Justice Overcoming Boundaries, and the San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium released a report (aquí en español) detailing the problems. In concert with a number of allies, including the American Red Cross of San Diego & Imperial Counties, we then helped pass a bill, signed into law in 2008, that requires public employees to provide evacuees with disaster-related assistance without asking for information or documents not strictly necessary to determine eligibility for services. One of the chief concerns during the 2007 wildfires was that aid workers were asking evacuees for proof of identity in order to enter emergency shelters, access emergency food and water, and speak to a relief worker.

Your Rights During and After a Disaster:

– You cannot be discriminated against
– You are free from unreasonable searches
– Your personal information must be protected
– You have the right to medical care, food, shelter & financial aid
– You do not have to show identification
– Be calm and stand up for your rights

To ensure that everyone affected by a disaster is aware of his/her rights, the San Diego ACLU and the San Diego Red Cross created a series of “Know Your Rights During a Disaster” materials. These can be found below.

 

Please contact the ACLU if you hear of anyone being denied services during this current fire season.

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