Critical Questions List

Legal Considerations

  • Are agency emergency preparedness personnel aware of applicable state and/or local laws? If not, what steps are being taken to change this?
  • How may these laws affect the development, implementation and maintenance of agency emergency preparedness plans?
  • In instances in which an agency leases space in facilities owned by private entities or by state or local governments, how will responsibilities for various aspects of the emergency preparedness process be allocated between the parties of the lease?

Agency Commitment

  • Have senior-level staff demonstrated a commitment to developing, implementing, and maintaining a plan that includes people with disabilities?
  • If not, what can and is being done to increase awareness of the importance of this issue, particularly among senior staff?
  • If senior staff have recognized the importance of this isue, describe in some detail evidence of this agency commitment.
  • How might this support can be strengthened and re-affirmed? Which areas (e.g., communicating the plan, practicing) need particular work? What are some strategies for addressing these areas?

Involving Key Personnel

  • Are key staff familiar with the Occupant Emergency Plan (OEP)?
  • Are individuals with disabilities involved in all aspects of emergency preparedness? If not, what steps have been taken to engage the disability community? Have the broad perspectives of the disability community been considered?
  • Do senior staff support the process of updating your agency plan? If not, what steps will be taken to change this?
  • Has the plan been reviewed by first responders and facilities personnel?
  • Does any part of the plan conflict with procedures established by nearby agencies?

Regional and Field Offices

  • Is the building inside or outside the National Capital Region (NCR)?
  • Does the agency partially occupy, but not control, the building?
  • What is the approximate number of occupants?
  • Does the agency have representation on the Building Security Committee (BSC)?
  • Does the building population consist mostly of Federal Government personnel? Are the personnel from the same agency or several federal agencies?
  • Do private sector businesses or state or local government agencies occupy a portion of the building?
  • What is the flow of employees and visitors and customers on a typical day and week?

Shelter-in-Place (SIP) Plans

  • Have the steps for evaluating an emergency situation and subsequent action been clearly defined, agreed upon, and communicated to all necessary staff?
  • Are there multiple methods in place to relay timely and relevant information to all staff and visitors?
  • Have all SIP areas been clearly marked?
  • Are plans in place that would allow for communication with all staff and visitors to the facility, including those who are deaf or hard of hearing or may have communication difficulties? If not, what steps are being taken to ensure that there are plans in place?
  • Are employees encouraged to keep extra medication or personal supplies at their desks?

Evaluating Employee and Customer Needs

  • Has information about an employee's need for assistance in the event of an emergency evacuation been collected in a manner that is consistent with the Rehabilitation Act?
  • Have steps been taken to clearly communicate the reasons for gathering the information and the importance of maintaining the employees' confidentiality?
  • Has only the essential medical information been shared with just those who need to know (e.g., first aid personnel, safety staff, and those responsible for implementing the plan)?
  • Has the agency consulted with other agencies, entities, and individuals with disabilities in selecting equipment?
  • Are there employees with service animals? What specific plans have been put in place for individual and service animal teams? Have plans been considered for visitors with service animals?
  • Have efforts been made to facilitate the establishment of personal support networks?
  • Have all employees needing and providing assistance had adequate training on equipment and emergency procedures?

Communicating About and Distributing the Plan

  • Is emergency preparedness information communicated with the same frequency and level of detail to all employees? If not, what steps will be taken to correct this?
  • Is the information on emergency preparedness on the agency Web site easy to locate and available in a text version? Are there text descriptions for every image, graphic, and chart?
  • Are emergency preparedness training sessions and meetings in accessible locations? Are qualified sign language interpreters, transliterators, CART, assistive listening devices, or other aids/services provided when necessary to ensure effective communication with deaf or hard of hearing employees?
  • If possible, are copies of the plan placed in prominent locations throughout the building?
  • Are emergency-evacuation and general SIP information distributed to those who have frequent visitor identification badges?

Employer Responsibilities and Employee Right to Self-Determination

  • Are there employees who impeded the evacuation of others during a drill or prior to an actual emergency? Has the issue been addressed privately and directly? Have solutions or alternatives been suggested?
  • Have all of the following factors been thoroughly considered when determining whether a particular applicant or employee with a disability would pose a "direct threat"?
  • The nature and severity of the potential harm
  • The likelihood that the potential harm will occur
  • The duration of any risk posed by the individual
  • The imminence of the potential harm
  • The availability of any reasonable accommodation(s) that would reduce or eliminate the risk
  • Has every effort been made to ensure that people with disabilities have been included in the emergency planning process? Has every effort been made to ensure that people with disabilities have not been segregated or discriminated against in establishing emergency procedures?
  • Have any employees made requests for reasonable accommodations with regard to emergency preparedness? If so, have all these requests been fulfilled? If not, can the agency show that providing the accommodation(s) would impose an undue hardship?

Working with First-Responders: First-Responder Responsibilities and Employee Right to Self-Determination

  • Have first responders been notified of particular issues related to employees with disabilities? Do all staff have the same level of safety?
  • Does the agency have a policy regarding evacuation? Has it been clearly communicated? Have any expressed strong opposition? If so, how has the issue been addressed?
  • Have first responders been involved throughout the process? If not, how will this be addressed?

Re-Thinking the Elevator Policy

  • Does the agency have a policy on elevator use during an emergency?
  • Have first responders been consulted in the development of this policy? If so, under what circumstances may elevators be used, and who is permitted to operate them?
  • Has a determination been made regarding who gets priority use of the elevators?
  • What are the alternative means of evacuating an individual in the event that designated elevators are inoperable?

Emergency Notification Strategies

  • Have efforts been made to ensure that all employees and visitors — including those who are deaf or hard of hearing and/or blind/low vision — have access to the same information in a detailed and timely manner?
  • Are there multiple methods in place to notify individuals of emergency plans and procedures?
  • Do these methods account for those who may be away from their desks or the office?
  • Do agency plans take the possible loss of power into consideration?
  • Do the plans take visitors into account?

Practice and Maintenance

  • Does the agency have a clearly established policy regarding the regular and continual practice of emergency preparedness plans? If not, is a policy in the process of being established? If so, does the policy include both evacuation and SIP?
  • Has the agency met and exceeded these requirements?
  • Have first responders been involved in multiple practice drills and/or has their feedback been solicited on practice drills? Have they been consulted to ensure that equipment is as current as possible?
  • Has an effort been made to ensure that drills are both varied in type and time of day?
  • Have various roadblocks been incorporated into all types of drills?
  • Are people with disabilities expected and able to participate fully in all drills?
  • Does the agency have an established policy for employees or visitors who may need to leave the building during a practice drill?

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