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Emergency Planning and ADA
February 7, 2008 - Contact FacilitiesNet Editorial Staff »
Most facility managers would agree that nothing is more critical than being prepared for an emergency. Most institutional and commercial organizations focus their preparations on business continuity, meaning records, equipment and property.
Although managers and others involved in emergency preparations understand life safety must come first, they often spend too little time considering strategies to get people out of buildings, particularly people who cannot use the stairs to evacuate.
Managers should consider two key questions regarding their emergency planning:
• Do you know everyone who comes in and out and spends time in your buildings everyday?
• Do you know whether all of these people could safely evacuate the building without using stairs in an emergency?
Not counting individuals with obvious physical disabilities, managers and others involved in emergency planning also need to consider individuals with a heart condition, a respiratory condition, a panic disorder, or a hearing loss
To incorporate these issues into emergency planning, managers can take some important preliminary steps related to both the facility and the people who travel in and out and occupy it every day.
First, gathering information about a facility’s current provisions for universal accessibility will tell managers what they must add to meet the needs of those who cannot use stairs to safely evacuate the building.
Second, it’s critical that managers gather information about emergency-alarm systems and emergency-communications systems. For example, can people with hearing disabilities receive information at the same time as everyone else?
Augmenting the built environment with the right kind of equipment suited to the needs of the building and its occupants, such as evacuation chairs, is an important step. But managers shouldn’t jump to order renovations and new equipment without first understanding the needs and locations of occupants.