Emergency Evacuation Procedures for Employees with Disabilities
This publication is intended to provide an overview of emergency procedures for employees with disabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) requires that employers, public services, and public accommodations and services operated by private entities modify their policies and procedures to include people with disabilities. This means that employers may be required to provide reasonable accommodations to employees so they can evacuate during emergencies. If visitors are allowed on the work-site, a business may want to invite voluntary disclosure about whether they require assistance in an emergency.
Though individuals with disabilities may have specific needs and concerns, all employees will benefit from knowing workplace safety features and emergency procedures. Because some individuals with disabilities require a personal attendant or job coach, it is important that these individuals are also consulted. In addition, many workplaces contract with cleaning crews, security guards, and other services that may have employees with disabilities on staff.
Throughout this publication JAN's Searchable Online Accommodation Resource (SOAR) is referenced. SOAR is available on JAN's Web site and is designed to let users explore various accommodation options. Many product vendor lists are accessible through this system; however, JAN provides these lists and many more that are not available on the Web site upon request. Contact JAN directly if you have specific accommodation situations, are looking for products, need vendor information, are seeking a referral, or are interested in discussing emergency procedures for employees with disabilities.
POLICIES AND PROCEDURES
- Have all employees been consulted and asked to contribute to evacuation and emergency plans?
- Is a "buddy system," where people with disabilities arrange for volunteers to alert them and assist in an emergency, in effect?
- Are employees aware of ways to report safety hazards?
- Are employees encouraged to make a list of medications, allergies, special equipment, names, addresses, and telephone numbers of doctors, pharmacies, family members, friends, and any other important information?
- Are alternate methods of evacuation practiced and evaluated through announced and surprised drills?
- Are local fire, police, and rescue departments periodically consulted about issues such as whether people with disabilities should remain in their workplaces, assemble in an area of refuge to await the arrival of rescue workers, or immediately evacuate?
WORK-SITE MODIFICATIONS AND ACCOMMODATIONS
- Are maintenance activities conducted regularly and evaluated for efficiency and safety?
- Are pieces of furniture and other items secured to provide multiple barrier-free passages?
- Are manual pull stations mounted at a height that is within the range of 48 to 54 inches?
- Is the building in compliance with all federal, state, and local codes? Note: Although other sections of the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) likely apply, Section 4.3.11 specifically addresses areas of rescue assistance and Section 4.28 specifically addresses alarms.
- Are lighted fire strobes and other visual or vibrating alerting devices used to supplement audible alarms? Note: Lighted strobes should not exceed five flashes per second due to risk of triggering seizures in some individuals. Visit JAN's SOAR for vendors of vibrating paging devices, wireless communicators, and two-way paging systems and for information on alerting devices that can be used to notify a person who is deaf or hard of hearing to sounds in the environment.
- Have areas of rescue, locations that are relatively safe from immediate danger, been established? Note: If these areas do not have escape routes, they should have 1) an operating phone, cell-phone, and two-way radio so that emergency services can be contacted; 2) a closing door; 3) supplies that enable individuals to block smoke from entering the room from under the door; 4) a window and something to write with (lipstick, marker) or a "help" sign to alert rescuers that people are in this location; and respirator masks. Visit JAN's SOAR for TTY vendors and for respirator vendors. Also, Volume 1, Issue 9, of JAN's Consultants' Corner summarizes information on "Two Way Radios as Accommodations."
Have signs been properly constructed and placed? Note: Visit JAN's SOAR for information on Braille signage. Audible directional signage and pedestrian systems are also available.
Are storage areas provided in several accessible areas for emergency supplies, which should include packs or backpacks that attach to walkers, wheelchairs, or scooters?
Are storage areas provided for necessary evacuation aids? Note: Visit JAN's SOAR for information on emergency evacuation devices that are available to help remove individuals with mobility impairments from buildings. These devices typically help individuals quickly move people with mobility limitations down the stairs or across rough terrain.
Are heavy gloves, which are used to protect individuals' hands from debris when pushing their manual wheelchairs, a patch kit to repair flat tires, and extra batteries for those who use motorized wheelchairs or scooters, available in a supply kit?
Have emergency procedures been distributed in Braille, large print, text file, and cassette tape formats?
Has disability etiquette been included in training? When training a workforce on emergency policies and procedures it is important that individuals become sensitive to vocabulary that is considered inappropriate when referring to people with disabilities. Visit JAN's Web site for information on disability etiquette and for a publication titled "Disability Etiquette Tips for Speaking Engagements."
Are employees trained on what evacuation techniques to use, particularly how to carry or assist individuals who use mobility aids, basic sign language to effectively communicate with individuals who are deaf, and the instructions for those individuals who use assistance animals? Note: The traditional "fire fighter's carry" may be harmful to some individuals.
For information on whether employers may request information to help identify individuals who might need assistance because of a medical condition and whether they can share this information with others in the workplace see the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's "Fact Sheet on Obtaining and Using Employee Medical Information as Part of Emergency Evacuation Procedures".
Job Accommodation Network
A service of U.S. DOL Office of Disability Employment Policy
West Virginia University
PO Box 6080
Morgantown, WV 26506-6080
800-526-7234 & 800-ADA-WORK (V/TTY)
304-293-7186 (Local Line, V/TTY)
Office of Disability Employment Policy
1331 F St NW
Washington, DC 20004-1107
202-376-6200 (V)/202-376-6205 (TTY)
1331 F. Street, NW, Suite 100
Washington, DC 20004-1111
800-872-2253 (V)/800-993-2822 (TTY)
Eastern Paralyzed Veterans Association (EPVA)
Jackson Heights, NY 11370-1177
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
500 C Street, SW
Washington, DC 20472
National Safety Council
11221 Spring Lake Drive
Itasca, IL 60143-3201
National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)
1 Batterymarch Park
Quincy, MA 02269-9101