Eemergency evacuation plans and students with disabilities
Posted Oct 01 2008 8:01pm
With the new school year freshly underway, all colleges and universities need to have plans in place for safe evacuation of students with disabilities. This includes dorms and residence halls. Many schools made sure to draw up these types of plans when the Sept. 11 tragedy highlighted the difficult task that people with disabilities can have when they need to leave a building during an emergency. Once the plans are developed, it is important that they are periodically revisited to account for any necessary changes.
How about your school? If there is an emergency and either the classroom buildings or dorms need to be evacuated, do you have a plan in place for getting your students with disabilities out of the buildings? When was the last time you reviewed your school’s plan?
If you need assistance in developing or refocusing your evacuation plan, the following ten questions from the Easter Seals web site may aid as a guide in this task. (The questions are directed towards the individuals with disabilities, prompting them to plan for their own safety, but are easily modified for perspective taking.)
1. Do you need help with personal care, or use adaptive equipment to meet your personal care needs? • What assistance would you need in an emergency? • What would you do if water or electricity were cut off?
2. Do you need accessible transportation?
3. Do you need assistance to leave your home or office?
4. How will you need to be alerted to an emergency?
5. If elevators are not working, do you have a back-up plan?
6. Who will be available and know how to help you exit?
7. Will you need mobility aids to exit? • Will you need back-up mobility aids when you reach a safe place?
8. Do you need medical supplies available in a safe place?
9. Will you need assistance in training and caring for a service animal?
10. Who needs to know where you will be after an emergency evacuation?
These questions really place the focus where planning for emergency evacuation of people with disabilities should be directed. When an emergency arises, it is too late to develop an evacuation plan for students with disabilities. It cannot be emphasized strongly enough how critical it is to be proactive in doing this.
I encourage you to pull out your school’s emergency evacuation plan and read over it. Then look over your caseload and see what concerns each of your students might have in the event of an emergency evacuation. If the provisions in place do not address the concerns of the students you serve as the DSS Coordinator, then it is your inherent duty to bring this need to the person who has authority over your school’s plan.