Disability and Emergency Preparedness in the Workplace
Employers, supervisors, and employees can decrease the impact of a disaster by taking steps to prepare before an event occurs. A workplace emergency plan can help employees and visitors with sensory, mobility, and cognitive disabilities know what to do for evacuation or shelter-in-place events.
Inclusive Emergency Planning
Inclusive emergency planning helps ensure that no employees or visitors, with or without disabilities, are left behind in an emergency situation. That means planning, preparing and practicing the facility emergency plan with all employees. Use the following checklist to help guide inclusive emergency plan development:
- Appoint an employee with a disability to your emergency preparedness team. This person will focus on emergency procedures and their impact on employees with disabilities. Employees with disabilities are in the best position to know their abilities and needs before, during, and after a disaster.
- Ensure that all emergency response team meetings, plan documents, and announcements are accessible to all employees. Consider publishing emergency plan information and procedures in multiple formats to ensure accessibility for all employees.
- When planning a drill or exercise, ensure employees with disabilities are included in all drill phases. This will enable the emergency response team to practice evacuation or shelter-in-place components. Note: Having employees who use wheelchairs wait by the elevators or stairs until the drill is over is not an inclusive drill. If the drill is an evacuation exercise, practice evacuating everyone.
- In addition to having an inclusive emergency response team or committee, developing an inclusive emergency notification and alert system will also save lives. The following summarizes alert systems that will meet the functional needs of employees and visitors with various disabilities:
|Type of Disability||Considerations|
|Low Vision, Blind||Sound-based systems, including public address and TV/radio messages and voice alerts|
|Deaf, Hard-of-Hearing||Text based systems, including email, instant messaging, scrolling message boards, and TV alerts with captioning, and strobe lights for fire alarm systems|
|Mental, Cognitive||Simple messages with no more than two-steps of instructions|
|Mobility||Clear instructions as to the location of the event and safe routes for egress or evacuation|