Emergency Evacuation Suggestions for Individuals with Disabilities
To contact the USDA Operations Center 24/7, call either 202-720-5711 or 1-877-677-2369 (877-OPP-CEN9). To reach a recorded emergency information line (updated daily), call 1-800-932-1902. For TTY services, call 1-800-877-8339.
- Meet with your Agency or Branch Safety Officer to discuss specific issues related to your disability and emergency evacuation procedures.
- Review your building Occupant Emergency Plan (OEP) with your Safety Officer. For copies of the Washington, D.C. metro area occupant emergency plans, visit the OEP page.
- Know where the nearest exit, fire alarm manual station and fire extinguisher are located.
- If you have a cell phone or pager, keep it with you as often as possible.
Employees with vision disabilities:
- People who are blind or visually impaired need to know an evacuation route in time of emergency. It is good to learn at least one alternate route, just in case.
- If the "buddy" system is used, the buddy should be someone familiar with the person with a disability, specifically knowing how to provide guiding assistance, and he/she should be familiar with the guide dog or other service animal. Additionally, back-up buddies should be recruited and trained.
- "Buddies" should go to the agreed meeting place to look for the employee with a disability. If the employee is not found, the buddy should then immediately vacate the building.
- Twice a year, it is good to practice leaving the building by at least one of the emergency evacuation routes. This improves familiarity of the evacuation procedures and routes for the employee, their service animals and the buddy(s).
- Service animals: If the alarm is sounded, employees with service animals should always leave the building - if they don't, their service animals will learn to disregard the alarms. Additionally, never let go of your service animal.
Employees with hearing disabilities:
- Employees who are deaf or hard of hearing have three options available: (1) have a strobe light mounted in their work area; (2) use the USDA supplied pagers (headquarters only) for early notification; or (3) develop a buddy system.
- If the buddy employee is leaving his/her assigned work area for an extended time, i.e., for training or conference/meeting attendance, a temporary buddy should be established.
- The Department is evaluating a public address system (speaker and message board). Upon implementation, everyone, regardless of his or her disability, would then receive complete evacuation information in a timely manner.
Employees with mobility disabilities:
- The Department has installed the "Warden-Phone System" within the Ag-South complex. On floors 2 through 6, at head house and tail house locations in each wing, there is a red telephone that is directly linked to the Emergency Command Center (ECC). Employees with mobility impairments should use these phones to contact ECC to determine if they should implement a horizontal evacuation to a designated safe area, use alternative evacuation routes, or use the Evacu-track chairs to leave the building.
- Evacu-track chairs are available, upon request from the Office of Operations Safety Officer (720-6808), to wheelchair users and persons with mobility impairments. If during an emergency team members cannot immediately locate the affected employee, they should evacuate the building. NOTE: Evacu-track chairs are slow and can be dangerous if used by individuals who are not trained in their use. Training on proper Evacu-Track chairs should be conducted with each team member at least twice per year.
- In the event of an extreme emergency, employees using wheelchairs and scooters should consider alternative evacuations, including being picked-up and carried out of the building. When circumstances necessitate separating the user and the wheelchair, keep the period of separation to a minimum. Sufficient helpers to carry both the user and the wheelchair/scooter must be available to use this procedure. When more than one flight of stairs is traversed, helpers may need to switch positions since one person may be doing most of the lifting. Switch positions only on a level landing areas. When the lifting is complete, follow the instructions of the wheelchair's user and restore the manual or motorized wheelchair to full operation; then assist the user to a safe area.
Employees with mental/cognitive disabilities:
- Review evacuation plans with your Agency or Branch Safety Officer.
- Ask the safety monitors or members of the Emergency Team for assistance.
- Regularly review your evacuation plans with your buddy(s) and supervisor.