This is the Access Board's current emergency evacuation plan, which it is making publicly available, along with information on how it was developed, as a resource for other organizations who may implement or update their own plans. While this plan is specific to the Board's workforce and building site, it may help others identify and address some of the important issues that need to be taken into account in developing evacuation plans that accommodate persons with disabilities. Questions on the Board's evacuation plan can be directed to Peg Blechman at (202) 272-0043 (voice) or (202) 272-0082 (TTY).
1. When Alarm Sounds
2. Meeting Place for Assistance and Evacuation Chairs
3. When Assistance is Not Available
4. Assigned Stairways
5. Floor Wardens
6. Meeting Places
How this Plan was Developed
1. WHEN ALARM SOUNDS
Elevator lobby alarm only - Receptionist to immediately verify circumstances and make an announcement accordingly. The information should be relayed to the floor wardens and alternate wardens. If verification is not made within 5 minutes, all occupants and employees must evacuate.
All other alarms or announcements require immediate evacuation.
Employees must close their office door after vacating.
When elevators are operable:
Persons using wheelchairs and others needing to use the elevators should meet in the elevator lobby. All others should evacuate offices and proceed to the nearest exit and stairwell.
When elevators are not operable:
All employees and guests should evacuate offices and proceed to the nearest exit.
Persons choosing to evacuate in evacuation chairs should proceed to their assigned evacuation chair location.
2. MEETING PLACES FOR ASSISTANCE AND EVACUATION CHAIRS
Individuals who need assistance and choose not to be evacuated in evacuation chairs should report to the Board office or the Small Conference Room. A sign must be attached to the window to be visible to the outside, indicating to others that persons are waiting for assistance in these designated areas. (The sign and duct tape are available in both rooms.) Information about the location of these rooms has been communicated to the Fire Department. (Two-way radios and a telephone are located in each of these rooms.)
Others needing assistance or those persons who are able to provide assistance should report to the closest evacuation chair location.
When possible, employees not assisting individuals in evacuation chairs are encouraged to bring manual chairs with them while evacuating.
3. WHEN ASSISTANCE IS NOT AVAILABLE
If assistance is not available, employees and guests should report to either the Board office or the Small Conference Room and await assistance from the Fire Department or rescue personnel. A sign must be attached to the window to be visible to the outside, indicating to others that persons are waiting for assistance in these designated areas. (The sign and duct tape are available in both rooms). Information about the location of these rooms has been communicated to the Fire Department. (Two-way radios and a telephone are located in each of these rooms.)
4. ASSIGNED STAIRWAYS
Individuals using evacuation chairs must use the east stairwell next to the Men’s Room.
Where possible, others are encouraged to use the west stairwell next to the Women’s Room. This includes those persons bringing manual chairs with them.
5. FLOOR WARDENS
Floor wardens are responsible for overseeing and coordinating evacuation activities, conducting a final pass through in the office space, ensuring that everyone receives the necessary assistance as appropriate, ensuring all doors to the elevator lobby are closed, and reporting the floor evacuation status to the building command center on the first floor.
There are five two-way radios. Three are located in the small conference room and two are located in the Board office. Where individuals are planning to wait for assistance, at least one will remain in the small conference room and the Board office. The Floor wardens (or alternates, where appropriate) will have at least one two-way radio. In their absence, other employees may be assigned to assume this responsibility. Floor wardens should assign at least one radio to the first employee to evacuate. This will facilitate communication between rescue personnel and those persons needing assistance.
Four flashlights are also available. Two are located in the Small Conference Room and two are located in the Board office.
6. MEETING PLACES
After evacuating the building, employees should proceed to the corner of 13th and F Streets, N.W. in front of MS Grill as a gathering place. If this is not possible, employees should proceed to the corner of 13th and G Streets, N.W. in front of the Covey store. If you are not able to make either gathering spots, you should leave a message at the Executive Director’s home (phone number) to make your whereabouts known.
The Access Board reviewed and updated its emergency evacuation plan so that it effectively addresses the specific needs and preferences of individual employees and its office location. With a staff of 28 full-time employees, the Board's workforce includes six individuals who use automatic or manual wheelchairs, four individuals who are blind or visually impaired and two individuals who use service animals. Our agency is located on the 10th floor of a building in downtown Washington, DC.
To review and revise our evacuation plan, our agency first organized a small volunteer emergency evacuation committee. This committee began by meeting with staff to discuss evacuation issues in general. Subsequently, the committee met with building management, local fire department personnel and a manufacturer of evacuation chairs, as well as other agencies and groups with evacuation plans involving persons with disabilities.
Many individuals and federal agencies have requested a copy of our evacuation plan and therefore, we are posting our plan on our website. However, because our plan is specifically designed for our workforce, building and location, we thought that it might be of value to also identify and provide discussion of some of the critical issues and questions that we faced in updating our plan.
Members of the evacuation committee reviewed the number of employees with disabilities on staff and the types of disabilities. Members of the evacuation committee then met with individual employees with disabilities to discuss their choices and preferences for evacuation. For additional information, see recent guidance provided by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Our evacuation plan includes the use of evacuation chairs for those employees needing assistance. There may be different procedures or preferences among local fire departments regarding evacuation procedures for persons with disabilities. This may include the use of evacuation chairs or the use of a safe room / area of refuge to wait for assistance. For additional information, you may wish to check with your local fire department.
Number of evacuation chairs:
The committee took an inventory of the number of evacuation chairs needed for employees requiring assistance. The committee also estimated the number of evacuation chairs that might be needed for Board members and visitors who may attend meetings at the Board’s office. Although the Board had a number of evacuation chairs on hand for an emergency, it was determined that 10 new chairs for staff, Board members and visitors would be purchased.
Selection of type of evacuation chairs:
The committee reviewed a variety of evacuation chairs on the market and purchased Garaventa Evacu-Trac CD-7 emergency evacuation devices.
Staff training on the new evacuation chairs was necessary. Staff viewed the training videotape provided by the manufacturer and, in addition, received on-site training from the manufacturer. Additional practice for Board staff is planned on a regular basis.
- It is our goal to familiarize everyone in the agency with the evacuation chairs, recognizing that not all individuals will be either available or able to offer assistance.
- It has been important that employees practice with a volunteer in the chair to gain experience maneuvering the chair in the stairwell. Because our evacuation chairs are low to the ground, this training also has provided an opportunity for individuals requiring assistance to practice transferring into and out of the evacuation chairs.
Employees who are not providing assistance have been encouraged to exit with the manual wheelchairs belonging to those individuals using evacuation chairs. It is understood that this may not be practical in all cases. When it is, individuals in evacuation chairs will have the opportunity to transfer back into their wheelchairs and move further away from the building in a more efficient and independent manner.
Alternative to evacuation chairs:
Our workforce has a varied work and travel schedule. Because of this, the committee considered that there may be times when there will not be enough individuals in the office to provide assistance. In this situation, our plan includes two offices designated as "waiting areas" where individuals using wheelchairs or mobility devices and others needing assistance will report and await assistance from the fire department. One designated office is at the front of the building, the other is at the back of the building. Each office has a pre-printed sign requesting rescue assistance, a window, a telephone and a two-way radio. Employees have been instructed to post this sign in the window facing the street or alley to alert the fire department of their location. Employees also will be able to communicate by two-way radio with building management and by telephone with the fire department. The location of these "waiting areas" has also been communicated to the local fire department.
Use of different stairwells
Our building has two stairwells. We surveyed these two stairwells to determine landing size, landing uniformity and exit location. One stairwell has slightly larger landings than the other. This information has been critical in planning for use of evacuation chairs because a certain landing length is necessary for pivoting the evacuation chairs. In addition, the smaller stairwell has stairs on the last landing which go below grade and then up to exit in the alley behind our building. Because our evacuation chairs only descend and do not ascend stairs, this would necessitate lifting the evacuation chair to exit into the back alley.
Based on the differing characteristics of the stairwells, we have designated the larger stairwell to employees using evacuation chairs and encouraged all other employees to use the second, smaller stairwell, if possible.
Location of fire alarms and extinguishers
Committee members conducted an inventory of the location of fire alarms and extinguishers on our floor. These locations were included in the evacuation plan. Staff has been instructed to personally locate each of the fire alarms and extinguishers.
We have designated two locations for employees to meet after evacuating the building. The primary location is at the end of the block. The secondary location is further from the building in the event that the first location is not appropriate given the emergency. Neither location requires individuals to cross an intersection.
If employees are unable to meet at the two designated locations, they have been instructed to phone a designated employee’s home number and leave a message on their answering machine.
We have clarified with our building management the different types of alarms in the building so that we will be able to respond accordingly. We also have learned that during certain types of emergencies, elevators authorized by Fire Department personnel may be available and have noted that possibility in our plan.
Communication and evacuation process
Given the complexities of a stairwell evacuation, we were concerned about the evacuation process and being able to communicate with each other, the building management and any emergency personnel in the event of an emergency. To address the issues, we incorporated the following in our plan.
The Board purchased five two-way radios. The two-way radios are being stored in the two offices designated as waiting areas. The two Floor wardens have the overall responsibility to oversee and coordinate evacuation activities. Part of this responsibility includes assigning these two-way radios to certain employees during an emergency.
- One is for the first employee to proceed down the stairs to the primary designated meeting location;
- Two are for those who remain in a designated waiting areas rather than evacuate; and
- Two are for the two floor wardens.
The most critical component of this piece of our communication plan is that these two-way radios use the same channels as our building management. This will allow us to communicate with building management from the beginning of an evacuation and to provide the status of our evacuation.
Designated meeting locations
The two-way radios will be used in these locations as well to determine the whereabouts of employees.
The Board purchased rechargeable flashlights for employees to use in the stairwells.
Emergency contact information
We have updated all emergency contact information, including employees’ cell phone numbers and home phone numbers.
Meeting with fire department
We met with the local fire department most likely to respond to an emergency and communicated specific information regarding our needs. Once recorded, this information will be available when the department responds to an emergency at our building. We included the number of people using evacuation chairs, others needing assistance, and the location of the offices where individuals may be waiting for assistance.
Information regarding workforce for building management staff & fire department personnel
- Posted in the fire control room at the lobby level of our building is a list of the employees using wheelchairs and other mobility aids and their floor numbers. This list also includes employees’ suite numbers for those employees who may be in their offices beyond the traditional work day.
- Also posted in the fire control room and on the back of the doors in both stairwells at the 10th floor are floor plans showing where the two designated waiting area offices are.
Our plan also includes providing assistance for individuals who are blind or visually impaired or need any type of assistance.
We are currently meeting weekly with employees either to train on the evacuation chairs or to practice different components of our plan. Plans are underway to hold ongoing practice drills to improve the speed at which we exit the building.
Cross training or the buddy system
Because many Board employees have varied work and travel schedules, it is difficult to predict which individual employees may be in the office in the event of an emergency. Thus, we have focused on cross training, as opposed to a more traditional "buddy system" approach, to train as many employees as possible to provide assistance and to perform the various roles called for in our plan.