In Individualized Workplace Emergency Response Plans: Part 1 of this article, we discussed accessible emergency information, defined what an individualized workplace emergency response plan is, and described some arrangements employers can have in place to make their emergency strategies more accessible. Now, we explore what should be included in an individualized workplace emergency response plan.
Who Needs an Individualized Workplace Emergency Response Plan?
Workers who have disclosed their disabilities to their employers may discuss their need for an individualized workplace emergency response plan. However, some workers may not need a plan. Other workers may need a plan but may not mention it because they are focused on every-day accommodations instead of emergencies. Therefore, if someone with a disclosed disability does not mention the need for a plan, the employer should do so.
Moreover, the employer should offer every worker the chance for a plan, whether they have disclosed disabilities or not. Workers may have disabilities that they have chosen not to disclose, such as hearing loss or a learning disability. Workers may not disclose because their disabilities do not affect their day-to-day job tasks, but these workers may benefit from a plan if their disabilities affect their emergency response. Employers can help keep all workers safe by telling all workers that plans are possible. In addition, employers should offer plans to any workers with temporary disabilities, such as a broken leg or a short-term visual impairment after eye surgery.
Creating an Individualized Workplace Emergency Response Plan
Workers with disabilities and employers develop an individualized workplace emergency response plan together and sign it. Employers must also seek out co-workers who will volunteer to help a worker in the event of an emergency. The plan must be kept confidential. For this reason, the employer must receive a worker’s consent before sharing any of the worker’s information with chosen volunteers. Kinds of help that volunteer coworkers can provide include:
- Telling a worker that the fire alarm is sounding
- Guiding a worker to the exit
- Explaining to emergency responders how a worker can communicate with them
- Calming a worker in the crowded environment of an emergency exit
- Physically supporting a worker and/or the worker’s mobility aid[s]
- Waiting with a worker away from designated waiting areas
Furthermore, the plan should list:
- The names, locations, and contact information of volunteers
- How the worker will be involved in every part of the emergency response, from the first alarm signal to the end of the process
- Which parts the worker will know about or do on their own, which parts they will perform with assistance, and what volunteers should do
- Any alternate routes a worker and volunteer may use when exiting the building
Volunteers will need to learn how to provide assistance, and how to offer physical support if necessary. Volunteers and others involved in the plan do not need to know about a worker’s diagnosis. Instead, they need to know what tasks the worker will need help with and how to provide that help.
The individualized workplace emergency response plan should include the following employee information:
- The worker’s name and department
- The address of the worker’s location, if the workplace has multiple buildings and addresses
- The worker’s floor, room name or number, and work station location
The plan should also list the same information about co-workers who have volunteered to help the worker. There should be more than one volunteer, in case the first person is absent or away from their work station at the time of an emergency.
Emergency contact information
A worker’s personal emergency contact information is good to have if the worker is experiencing panic, stress, or injury. Include the following emergency contact information in the plan:
- Phone number
- Relationship to the worker
Assistance methods and equipment
The plan should list any assistance workers with disabilities need, and explain how volunteers should offer it. In addition, the plan should describe any mobility devices the worker uses. Some devices the worker might use every day. Other devices, such as evacuation chairs, might only be needed for emergencies. This section of the plan should include:
- What kind of device(s) a worker uses, for example, a walker, wheelchair, cane, crutches, or service animal
- The location of the equipment or device(s), if it is stored
- How to use the equipment or device(s)
Reviewing the Plan
Employers and workers should review an individualized workplace emergency response plan when the:
- Worker’s location changes
- Worker’s individual accommodation plan is reviewed
- Employer reviews its general emergency response policies
Why do we need individualized workplace emergency response plans?
It is the duty of employers to protect their workers. Ensure compliance with the IASR by creating and implementing an individualized workplace emergency response plan for individuals with disabilities. You never know when an emergency will happen. Have a plan in place. Be prepared!