MDP Shakeout event features Richard Devylder

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Richard Devylder, head of the Office for Access and Functional Needs for the California  Office of Emergency Services, will be keynote speaker at MDP’s Town Hall Great Shakeout Saturday, Oct. 18. Photo by Richard Devylder

Richard Devylder, head of the Office for Access and Functional Needs for the California Office of Emergency Services, will be keynote speaker at MDP’s Town Hall Great Shakeout Saturday, Oct. 18.
Photo by Richard Devylder

Mountain Disaster Preparedness, a local non-profit volunteer group, is holding a Great Shakeout event to inform residents how to be better prepared for earthquakes and other emergencies.

The event, from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, Oct. 18, also will stress the need for Hill residents to be prepared to be self-sufficient, especially after a catastrophic earthquake strikes Southern California.

To highlight the need for post-disaster self-sufficiency and personal responsibility, MDP has invited Richard Devylder, head of the Office for Access and Functional Needs at the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, to be keynote speaker at the Saturday event. Born without arms or legs, Devylder tells a deeply inspirational story emphasizing “can” versus “can’t.”

Placed in foster care by his family who viewed his physical defects as evidence of a sin, Devylder grew up focusing on possibility rather than limitation. He developed an early love for athletics and discovered swimming as a form of exercise he could do regularly. He graduated from Cal State University Long Beach in 1992; he held multiple positions at Southern California Rehabilitation Services at CSULB, served as executive director of the Dayle McIntosh Disability Resource Center and in 2003 was appointed deputy director of Independent Living and External Affairs at the California Department of Rehabilitation. He served as special advisor to the secretary of the California Emergency Management Agency from 2008 to 2010 and was appointed by President Obama as the first senior advisor for Accessible Transportation at the U.S. Department of Transportation. On June 28, 2013, Gov. Jerry Brown appointed Devylder to his present position as director of the Office for Access and Functional Needs.

Devylder narrates a day in his life in a video on the Department of Rehabilitation website, www.rehab.cahwnet.gov/DOR-50-Years/50-Notable-26-Richard-Devylder.html. In it, Devylder details what he does each day, including taking public transportation from his home in Sacramento to his office, going to medical appointments on his own, developing tools, machinery and procedures to allow him to live alone for the most part, using his own automated transportation chair and lift devices to facilitate getting into his pool, swimming for 45 minutes daily, and, as he states in his video, finding ways each day “to be able to be adaptive and free in the things that you do.”

Nancy Layton, MDP training director, first heard Devylder speak in 2008 at an OES-sponsored Shakeout event in Indio. “Throughout his talk that day, he focused on what each person can do rather than being afraid because of what they can’t do,” she said. “I remember him saying, ‘Each person — both disabled and otherwise — has the responsibility to know their own abilities and limitations.’” As he did in Indio, Devylder will emphasize at his Idyllwild presentation the importance of knowing escape routes and methods of movement from your building, keeping an emergency kit packed and ready, planning and drilling with family and friends, unlearning what he calls the “helpless syndrome,” building a local support team, getting to know your neighbors and learning what things you can do for yourself while you’re waiting for help to arrive after a disaster.

There is no charge for this event.

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