The Emergency Management and Continuity of Operations (EMCO) Office, in collaboration with the Paul Menton Centre (PMC), Carleton Disability Awareness Centre (CDAC) and Attendant Services, has implemented a risk action plan that considers the needs of Carleton’s community with disabilities. Being prepared for an emergency provides peace of mind during what can often be a very distressing situation. One of the key steps in being prepared is having a plan. In addition to basic emergency information, your personal emergency plan should include health/medical information, individual accommodations/considerations, and the locations of any specialized assistance/equipment/resources that you may need in the case of an emergency. To build upon your personal emergency plan, also take the time to have a discussion(s) with friends and colleagues about how they may be able to help you during an emergency.
For those living with mobility, sensory, and/or other non-visible disabilities, emergency preparedness should involve incorporating special accommodations into their emergency response plan. To best prepare for an emergency according to one’s (unique or individual) needs, planning considerations that are different than otherwise recommended may be necessary. Persons with disabilities and either their instructor (for students) or their supervisor (for employees) should work together to develop plans and systems to make sure necessary preparations are made so appropriate action can be taken without confusion in the case of an emergency.
MANY RECOMMENDATIONS ARE UNIFORM. In many cases, emergency procedures can be followed without the need for special accommodation. Examples include: cyber attacks, infectious disease, suspicious packages and behaviour are all generally situations in which no special planning is required unless deemed so on an individual basis.
INFORM THOSE NECESSARY. Any person who requires assistance during an emergency has the responsibility to make their needs known – for employees, to their supervisor; and for students, to the instructor in each of their classes. Examples of disabilities which may require assistance during an emergency are:
- Sensory disabilities – blind, low vision, deaf, hard-of-hearing
- Mobility disabilities (those who use walkers, crutches, motorized scooters, wheelchairs, canes, or other mobility aids either on a permanent or temporary basis)
- Mental health disabilities
- Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
- Other medical conditions that pose access and functional needs
KNOW YOURSELF AND YOUR DISABILITY, WORK WITH OTHERS when planning your emergency plan. Let those who are part of your emergency plan know specifically what assistance you will need in an emergency. Include communication difficulties, physical considerations, equipment instructions, medication procedures, if necessary, and any requirements for notifying you of an emergency situation if current methods are ineffective for you.
PERSONS REQUESTING ASSISTANCE REGISTRATION. If you wish to self-identify as a person with a mobility disability, which may prevent or impede safe evacuation, register for Persons Requesting Assistance Self-Identification. The Carleton University Fire Protection Co-ordinator will meet with you to ensure your familiarity with “Stay-in-Place” procedures.
Respecting that the person with the disability may be the best authority on how to be assisted is perhaps the most important component of helping them. It is then imperative, if you do offer assistance, to let the person explain what help is needed and how to go about helping them. During a fire alarm, if it is safe to assist individuals with disabilities to leave the building, please do so. Do not though attempt to carry anyone from a building during a fire alarm. If someone needs to be carried out of a building, please contact Campus Safety Services at 613-520-4444, ext. 4444 from a university phone, or through the Carleton Mobile App. Remember that service animals are an integral part of well-being for those who use them. Foremost, let them tell you how and if to help with the animal and be aware that a service animal’s sense of direction may become confused during an emergency. When you have gotten to safety, re-evaluate the situation, do not abandon the person after exiting a building, go together to a designated safe place.
Assisting Persons Who Use Wheelchairs
NOTE: Carrying a person is not advisable except in the most extreme life and death circumstances. In the case of an emergency, please contact Campus Safety Services at 613-520-4444, ext. 4444 from a university phone, or through the Carleton Mobile App for assistance. They will coordinate rescue assistance.
- If the person is unable to speak clearly, look for a sign on the chair with printed instructions.
- Prior to moving the person, check for life-support equipment.
- Be aware that wheelchairs have parts not designed to handle the stress of lifting.
Don’t carry a person up or down stairs if you and/or others cannot safely do so. Instead position the person in the safest place possible according to the emergency plan (often the top of a stairwell works well, off to the side so as to not interfere with the evacuation of others). Alert Campus Safety Services (at 613-520-4444, ext. 4444 from a university phone, or through the Carleton Mobile App) and advise them of the person’s location and request assistance.
Assisting Persons with Mobility Limitations – Non-Wheelchair Users
- Do not interfere with a person’s movement.
- Clear displaced and fallen obstacles from egress routes.
- If the stairs are crowded, you may act as a buffer for the person.
Assisting Persons with Limited Communication
- During an evacuation, give clear instructions.
- Maintain eye contact with the individual to ensure all directions are heard and understood.
Assisting Deaf or Hard of Hearing Persons
- Get the attention of the person before speaking and look at them when speaking.
- Speak using short sentences and use hand gestures if that helps.
- Use written notes to indicate emergency and instructions, for example, “Fire! Go out the rear door now!”
- Check to be sure you are understood.
- Be aware that the person may not be able to hear oral commands issued by authorities.
Assisting Persons Who are Blind or have Low Vision
- During an emergency, announce your presence when entering the person’s area.
- Offer your elbow; do not grab their arm or hand.
- Communicate through the evacuation by describing in advance physical barriers or actions to be taken such as, “Take two steps down.”
Assisting Persons with Mental Health Disabilities and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
- Understand that the person may have difficulties in concentrating, handling stress, and initiating personal contact.
- Help reduce stress during an emergency by offering to escort the person through the evacuation.
- Giving clear and simple instructions.
Assisting Persons Who have a Developmental Disability
- Be aware that they may be unable to understand the emergency and could become disoriented or confused about the proper way to react.
- During an evacuation, give instructions slowly and clearly.
Assisting Persons with Medical Conditions
Medical conditions include, for example, pregnancy, respiratory or cardiac problems.
- Offer assistance walking down stairs.
- Find ways to reduce stress, exertion, and exposure to dust or smoke.
- Allow rest periods during evacuation if possible.
Assisting Owners of Service Animals
- Do not pet or offer food or water without the permission of the owner.
- Plan for the service animal to be evacuated with the owner.
- In the event that you are asked to handle the service animal while assisting the individual, hold the leash and not the harness if present.