SITUATIONS AND SOLUTIONS: EXCHANGING
Creativity and access to appropriate resources are integral
aspects of developing a successful emergency preparedness plan. The next
general session, Situations and Solutions: Exchanging Innovative
Ideas, facilitated by Dr. Beth Loy and Linda Batiste, was designed to
promote creative solutions to unique situations related to the development,
implementation, and maintenance of an emergency preparedness plan that involves
people with disabilities. In this unconventional session, Loy and Batiste,
Human Factor Consultants with the Job Accommodations Network (JAN), presented
participants with various workplace scenarios, involving people with an array
of disabilities. They were then asked to brainstorm about the appropriate
solution to implement in an emergency preparedness plan. Additionally, the
participants were afforded an opportunity to learn about the ODEP-sponsored JAN
and the services it offers, which include resources for building and
maintaining disability friendly plans.
Loy and Batiste presented an array of situations and solutions and
facilitated a general discussion of possible solutions proffered by Seminar
participants. Some examples of the issues discussed are below. Please note
that while the various examples may not necessarily apply to specific federal
jobs, the concepts may be applied where appropriate.
An individual has post-traumatic
stress resulting from a burn injury sustained at work. This individual works on
the third floor of a multi-story building. However, since sustaining the
injury, he has had difficulty returning to the building due to anxiety.
- Place the individual near an exit, so they will have comfort
in knowing they will not have to go too far to evacuate the building.
- Relocate the individual to the first floor.
- During drills, this individual does not have to participate.
(Regarding this issue Loy and Batiste noted that this solution is very
controversial. An alternative would be to conduct individual drills for the
person, breaking each element of the drill into small steps.)
- Encourage the individual to work with an Employee Assistance
- Talk with the individual, asking what would help increase his
- Utilize a buddy system. Connect the individual with
someone whom he will feel comfortable with and who will personally escort the
individual during an emergency situation.
- Allow the individual to work from home as much as possible,
depending on the required job duties.
A guidance counselor who has a
speech impairment must communicate her needs to people during an emergency
- Provide the individual with pre-written notes regarding things
she may need to say.
- Provide the individual with a laminated card (in case it gets
wet) that has pictographs, so that she can point to various things.
- Utilize sign language. (Loy and Batiste pointed out that
this is useful only if the individual knows sign language.)
- Install closed-captioned television in designated areas of the
building. (Loy and Batiste pointed out that this may be of no use if the
person with the speech impairment will need to do the communicating.)
- Provide the individual with a flashlight for an established
Morse code-type communication system or to see pre-written notes (in the
- Provide the individual with battery-operated text
- Provide a bullhorn or other speech amplification/enhancer
A secretary, who works on the
21st floor of an office building, is blind and uses a service animal. The
building design is a complex maze of hallways and cubicles.
- Locate the individuals desk reasonably close to the exit
and practice evacuation techniques. (Loy commented that assigning a person
with a disability, to a specific location based on the fact that the individual
has a disability might be seen as discriminatory segregation, despite the fact
that it is done solely to ensure the person's safety. However, this potential
problem can usually be overcome by involving the employee with the disability
in the decision-making process. If the employee prefers to be moved to a
location closer to an exit, then this accommodation is likely
Another consideration advanced by a Seminar
participant on this issue was that placing the individual next to the exit and
making this her main means to evacuate may cause more problems. Specifically,
the exit door may be impacted by the emergency, and the individual may not have
any other recourse.)
- Provide the individual with tactile maps and clues, so that
she becomes familiar with the alternate exits and can locate them on her
- Provide the individual and service animal with plenty of
one-on-one training, to include mobility training, so that she becomes familiar
with the tactile signals.
- Provide the service animal with equipment or devices that will
allow it to assist the employee. For example, provide a service dog with
booties for his feet. This may help the dog negotiate hot surfaces or broken
- Install an alarm system that signals where an exit is located.
- Tape record simulations. (Loy and Batiste built on this
concept, explaining to Seminar participants tape-recorded simulations could be
provided to the employee. The recording would advise the individual of
alternative exit routes throughout a building.)
Seminar participants listened as common situations
were presented, and then provided possible solutions.
A warehouse worker, who is
deaf, works in an environment where heavy pieces of machinery move at high
speeds. Because of the fast-paced environment, the worker has difficulty
recognizing emergency signals.
- Install strobe lights strategically throughout the
- Install mirrors on all intersections within the
- Install a device in a strategic location that vibrates or
provide the individual with a vibrating pager to alert them of an emergency.
- Inform other employees of the situation, so that they can be
watchful and careful as well.
- Provide the individual with a brightly colored vest or hat.
(Loy and Batiste commented that this is a controversial solution, as the
individual may not want to be pointed out. The best thing to do is talk with
the employee about the available options and determine the option that works
best for all involved.)
A clerical assistant with
mental retardation has difficulty quickly evacuating her workplace.
- Implement the buddy system, consisting of a team of colleagues
to assist the individual.
- Utilize a series of pictograms to help the individual
understand that there is an emergency situation or a drill and describe what
steps must be taken to get to safety.
- Make emergency preparedness a part of the individuals
job coaching experience.
- Color code fire doors.