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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.

Situation 1:
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 Program (EAP)
  • Talk with the individual, asking what would help increase his comfort level.
  • 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.

Situation 2:
A guidance counselor who has a speech impairment must communicate her needs to people during an emergency situation.


  • 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 dark).
  • Provide the individual with battery-operated text services.
  • Provide a bullhorn or other speech amplification/enhancer device.

Situation 3:
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 individual’s 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 appropriate.

    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 own.
  • 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 glass.
  • 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.)
Participants of the Seminar

Seminar participants listened as common situations were presented, and then provided possible solutions.

Situation 4:
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 warehouse.
  • Install mirrors on all intersections within the warehouse.
  • 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.)

Situation 5:
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 individual’s job coaching experience.
  • Color code fire doors.

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