Including Employees with Disabilities in Emergency Evacuation Plans

Beth Loy and Anne Hirsh

Interest in emergency evacuation planning has increased since the September 11 terrorist attacks. In turn, the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) started receiving more calls from employers about their legal obligation to develop emergency evacuation plans and how to include employees with disabilities in such plans. This presentation addresses legal requirements and steps for including people with disabilities in emergency evacuation planning.

Although employers are not required to have emergency evacuation plans under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), if employers covered by the ADA opt to have such plans they are required to include people with disabilities. Employers who do not have emergency evacuation plans may have to address emergency evacuation for employees with disabilities as a reasonable accommodation under Title I of the ADA. Employers in certain industries may have obligations to develop plans under other laws.

Whether mandatory or voluntary, many employers develop emergency evacuation plans. The steps for development should include (1) plan development, beginning with identifying accommodation needs; (2) plan implementation, focusing on distribution of information to employees; and (3) plan maintenance, which addresses developing relationships with emergency personnel and periodically updating training materials. This presentation focuses on accommodations for individuals with motor, sensory, cognitive, psychiatric, and respiratory impairments.

Emergency evacuation information related to accommodations is a refined discipline that involves completing research on evacuation-related equipment and methods, making emergency evacuation a normal part of the workplace culture, and ensuring that training materials make accommodation requests effective.

Presentation Slides:
Slides 1-15
Slides 16-30

Beth Loy, Ph.D., is a Clinical Assistant Professor at West Virginia University, is a Human Factors Consultant with the Job Accommodation Network (JAN). As a consultant, she specializes in ergonomics and accommodating individuals with motor impairments and providing information on the Americans with Disabilities Act. In addition, Beth is JAN's webmaster. She has a Ph.D. in Resource Economics with a specialization in social policy and has masterís degrees in Economics, Industrial and Labor Relations, and Safety and Environmental Management. Beth has been with JAN for nine years.

Anne Hirsh, M.S. is the Services Manager of the Job Accommodation Network. Anne has consulted with employers, rehabilitation professionals, and individuals with disabilities as a JAN representative for over 15 years. She has a Master of Science degree in rehabilitation counseling and vocational evaluation from West Virginia University. As a part of her work with JAN she provides training and presentations across the United States to employers, rehabilitation professionals, and individuals with disabilities on issues related to employment of people with disabilities. She has written articles on job accommodations and issues in the workplace for individuals with all types of limitations or disabilities.

Presentation abstract from the 'Workplace Accommodations: State of the Science' conference
September 15-16, 2005, Altanta, GA