An emergency action plan outlines the steps that companies and workers must do to protect employee safety in the event of a fire or other disaster. Although the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not require companies to create emergency evacuation plans, if they do, they must include persons with disabilities. Furthermore, even if an employer does not have an emergency evacuation plan, it may be required to handle emergency evacuation for disabled workers as a reasonable accommodation under Title I of the ADA. In addition, under the Occupational Safety and Health Act or state and municipal legislation, businesses in some sectors may be required to establish emergency evacuation plans.
Making a Strategy
Plan formulation is the first step in engaging personnel with disabilities in emergency evacuation preparations. Identifying accommodation requirements is the first step in developing a plan. Asking workers if they have any constraints that would prevent a safe emergency evacuation is one of the greatest methods to uncover accommodation requirements. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has issued recommendations on what information companies are permitted to collect when creating an emergency evacuation plan.
An employer may get information in three ways, according to this guidance:
An employer may ask all employees if they would need help in the event of an emergency after issuing a job offer but before work starts.
An employer may also conduct a monthly survey of all existing workers to evaluate if they will need help in the event of an emergency, as long as the company makes it clear that self-identification is optional and explains why the information is being requested.
Finally, whether a business polls all workers on a regular basis, it may ask employees with known impairments whether they will need help in an emergency. However, an employer should not presume that everyone with a visible handicap would need help in the event of an evacuation. Many blind people, for example, may choose to go downstairs without assistance. People with impairments are usually the best people to evaluate their own requirements.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compels businesses to keep all medical information secret. However, if the handicap requires immediate care or if special procedures for emergency evacuations are required, first aid and safety professionals may be notified.
Employers may want to hold mock evacuation drills to help identify needs that employee are unaware of; conduct hazard analyses to help identify hazards specific to the workplace; develop a method to identify visitors with special needs; and contact local fire and police for guidance, in addition to requesting information from employees. These emergency responders may already have equipment and procedures in place to help persons with impairments, especially in big towns.
Businesses are encouraged to engage them in regular drills by fire services, particularly when persons with disabilities are participating. It not only offers useful information and ways to enhance the firm, but it also gives rescuers practical experience in evacuating disabled personnel.
Accommodations in General
Notification and Guidance Emergency alarms and indicators indicating emergency evacuation routes should be provided by employers. These alerts and signals must be easily accessible and in good functioning condition. To augment aural alarms, businesses should install lit fire strobes and other visual or vibrating warning systems. Due to the potential of inducing seizures in certain people, lighted strobes should not have more than five flashes per second. For workers with visual difficulties, employers should provide tactile signs and maps. There are various options for braille signs, auditory directional signage, and pedestrian systems. Other folks who must negotiate smoke-filled egress pathways may benefit from these goods.
Assistance that has been designated.
Employees with disabilities should be supported by one or more authorized assistants during a workplace evacuation or fire drill. It is the responsibility of authorized assistants to guide handicapped workers to the closest exit, stairway, or other secure spot where they may wait for the fire service to arrive. If two authorized assistants are present, one should notify an emergency monitor of the individual with a disability’s location so that emergency services may be sent if required. If there is only one assistance on hand, that person should stay with the individual while another employee informs the monitor of their whereabouts.
Employers may choose to designate places where they will provide rescue aid. If a stairway is required, the assistant and handicapped employee should move against the wall and wait for the flow of traffic to come to a halt once inside. If the handicapped employee cannot safely escape down the stairway, they should stay in the place of refuge until they get an all-clear notification or are escorted out the building by emergency response personnel. If there are no escape routes in a designated refuge location, they should have:
- A working phone, mobile phone, TTY, and two-way radio that can be used to call emergency assistance.
- A door that is shutting.
- Smoke-blocking supplies that allow people to keep smoke from entering the room via the entrance.
- A window with something to write on or a “help” sign to warn rescuers that people are present.
- Masks for breathing.
- Firefighters and rescue professionals usually go to the most dangerous location first to conduct a methodical search and rescue operation.
Employers should establish who will be engaged in executing the evacuation plan after selecting suitable accommodations, commit the plan to paper and share it with workers for input, rehearse the plan to ensure it works, and amend the plan as required. It is important to get opinions and suggestions from persons with disabilities. They’ll be able to provide the most helpful criticism and suggestions for improvement.
Visitors with Special Needs
Because guests with impairments will not have personal assistants assigned to them, the host employee should fill in for them. All parts of the floor, including bathrooms, should be properly examined for any persons with impairments, according to monitors.