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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

FEMA’s Functional Needs Support Services Guidance

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Guidance on Planning for Integration of Functional Needs Support Services in General Population Shelters is intended to ensure that individuals who have access and functional needs receive lawful and equal assistance before, during, and after a disaster or public health emergency. Commonly known as the FNSS, this guidance can be incorporated into existing shelter plans, as it does not establish a new “tier” of sheltering or alter existing legal obligations. Key considerations when planning for the integration of individuals with access and functional needs in general population shelters include the following:

  • The American Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, Fair Housing Act (FHA) of 1968, and civil rights requirements are not waived in disaster situations.
  • Emergency managers and shelter planners have the responsibility to ensure that sheltering services and facilities
    are accessible.
  • Most individuals with access and functional needs can be accommodated in a general population shelter
    with support.
  • Functional Needs Support Services (FNSS) can be incorporated into existing shelter plans and resources.


FNSS are services that enable individuals with access and functional needs to maintain their independence in a general population shelter. Examples of support services include durable medical equipment (DME), consumable medical supplies (CMS), and personal assistance services (PAS). Individuals requiring FNSS may have physical, sensory, mental health, and cognitive and/or intellectual disabilities affecting their ability to function independently without assistance. Others who may benefit from FNSS include women in the late stages of pregnancy, seniors, and people whose body mass requires special equipment.

Legal Guidance

Legal requirements for inclusion, integration, and equal opportunity are not waived during disaster or emergency situations.

  • The Stafford Act and Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act (PKEMRA) mandate integration and equal opportunity for people with disabilities in general population shelters. The ADA of 1990, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the FHA of 1968 define the scope of FNSS. Among other specifications for people with disabilities, this includes the selection of accessible sites for the location of general population shelters, the construction of architecturally compliant shelters, and required physical modifications to ensure program accessibility in existing facilities.

Planning Considerations

Advanced planning is essential in order to ensure equal access and services. Making general population shelters accessible to persons with access and functional needs may require additional items and services, such as

  • Communication assistance and services
  • DME, CMS, and/or PAS to assist with activities of daily living
  • Availability of food and beverages appropriate for individuals with dietary restrictions.

Plans must also be made for how medical support will be utilized in general population shelters and how to assess when individuals are not appropriate for these settings because of medical needs.

It is important for emergency planners and public health officials to know and understand the community’s demographic profile in order to determine what services and equipment will be needed in a disaster or emergency. Meeting with community partners, stakeholders, providers, constituents, and service recipients, including individuals with access and functional needs, will enhance emergency planners’ and public health officials’ abilities to develop plans that successfully integrate individuals with access and functional needs into general population shelters. In addition, these collaboration efforts will help educate community members with access and functional needs about the importance of personal preparedness plans.


  • This page last reviewed: September 08, 2020