Emergency Evacuation Suggestions for Individuals with Disabilities (HQ)
- 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, go to http://www.usda.gov/oo/beprepared/.
- Know where the nearest exit, fire alarm manual station and fire extinguisher are located.
- While at your workstation, keep you computer on as it is connected to the Computer Electronic Notification System (CENS), which will alert you in the event of an emergency other than a fire.
- Develop a “Grab and Go Kit” of items you would need if you were confined to your work facility for several days. If special medication is needed on a regular basis, remember to pack a sufficient supply of the medication. Contact the medical office for instructions if you medication needs to be refrigerated. Go to http://www.usda.gov/oo/beprepared/ for additional information on “Grab and Go Kits.”
- If you have a cell phone or pager, keep it with you as often as possible. Also, contact the USDA TARGET Center to get your cell phone number or pager email address listed on the emergency notification list that in used to contact employees with disabilities during an emergency.
- If you need assistance during an emergency, ask the fire wardens, hallway monitors, security guards or members of the Emergency Response Team (red jackets) for assistance.
Employees with vision disabilities
- People who are blind or visually impaired need to know multiple evacuation or shelter-in place routes in time of emergency. It is good to practice your alternate routes at least once a year. This will also help your assistance dog know the routes, just in case.
- The Department is advising all employees to develop a “Grab and Go Kit” that should contain emergency supply materials should the employee be confined to their work facility for several days. If the employee has a service animal, sufficient supplies for the service animal should also be packed.
- The Department has implemented a public address system (hallway speakers). When activated, please listen carefully to the instructions. You may be told to return to your office, relocate to another room location, or you may be told to move up or down 2-3 flights of stairs. If you need assistance at that time, please ask the floor warden or hallway monitor in your area.
- 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, if applicable, they 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 or cannot be seen approaching the meeting area, 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 release your service animal as they will most likely stay by your side anyways.
Employees with hearing disabilities
- Employees who are deaf or hard of hearing have four options available: (1) have a strobe light mounted in their work area; (2) use the USDA supplied pagers (headquarters only) for early evacuation notification; (3) notify the TARGET Center if you have a 2-way text pager and have your pager email address listed on the emergency notification list used during emergencies other than fire alarm; or (4) develop a buddy system.
- If the employee is leaving their assigned work area for an extended time, i.e., for training or conference/meeting attendance, a temporary buddy should be established.
- The Department has implemented a public address system (hallway speakers). If activated, most employees in the hallway will be stopping to listen, and then reacting to the message. If you see this happening, ask for assistance or use your 2-way pager to email for information..
Employees with mobility disabilities
- The Department has installed the “Warden-Phone System” within the Ag-South complex for use by employees or visitors with temporary or permanent mobility impairments. 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 the elevator as an alternative evacuation route, 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. The employee’s home agency should develop teams of employees willing to assist the employee in transferring to the chair and then evacuating both the user and their wheelchair out of the facility. 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 use of 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 outside of the facility.
Employees with mental/cognitive disabilities
- Review evacuation plans with your Agency or Branch Safety Officer.
- Consider developing laminated diagrams or picture cards describing the routes and actions to be taken.
- If special medication is needed on a regular basis, remember to pack a sufficient supply of the medication in your “Grab and Go Kit.” Contact the medical office for instructions if you medication needs to be refrigerated.
- Ask the floor wardens, hallway monitors, security officers and your safety officer or members of the Emergency Response Team (Red jackets) for assistance.
- Regularly review and practice your evacuation plans with your buddy(s) and supervisor.
Last Modified: 06/27/2012