Over the years, USDA has learned that there are several key factors to successful emergency planning for people with disabilities. Those factors include; 1) communications; 2) training; 3) supplies; 4) recovery; and 5) representation. Directly impacting these 5-factors is the nature of the incident, i.e., is the incident internal or external?
- Communications: Experience has taught us that timely and accurate information is the most important factor in emergency preparedness for individuals with disabilities. People with disabilities best know their “abilities”, i.e., what they can and cannot do, when confronted with an emergency event. Contact your safety officer and determine how you can best obtain the accurate and timely information regarding any type of incident affecting your workplace or home.
- Training: Once the various communication methods are established, then training should be conducted, at lest 4-times per year, that will enable the employee with disabilities to develop and practice multiple evacuation and/or relocation plans.
- Supplies: People with disabilities often have additional needs, including medicinal supplies, durable medical equipment (wheelchairs/scooters, oxygen tanks, hearing aids, etc.), and service animals. Planning needs to include alternative locations for refrigeration of medicinal supplies (if needed), recharging capabilities for battery-operated equipment, transportation of durable equipment along with the user, and additional supplies for feeding and caring for service animals.
- Recovery: People with disabilities need to fully prepare for a recovery location that can address any medical and housing accessibility needs. Additionally, back-up sources of medical records, possible sources for equipment repair, communication resources and equipment, and transportation needs must be addressed.
- Representation: During the development of emergency plans, policies and procedures that impact people with disabilities, one of the most important factors in emergency planning that is often overlooked by community, city, county, state and employment-based emergency planning committees and departments is that they do such planning without providing representation. Clearly, people with disabilities best know how an incident, and the resulting implementation of the emergency plan, can impact people of various types of communication, transportation and recovery issues. If a person with a disability is inclined to “get involved,” they must remember that they may be the only voice heard and MUST represent all types and classifications of disabilities, including low vision and blind, deaf and hard of hearing, mental and cognitive, and mobility and dexterity disabilities.
This is the basis of the USDA emergency planning and preparation for employees with disabilities. For current detailed information on the USDA plans, go to http://www.usda.gov/oo/beprepared/
Last Modified: 06/27/2012