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Are Your Tenants Safe?

Providing Assistance

Identifying those with special needs

Before special accommodations can be made, people needing them must be identified. One strategy is to maintain a list of individuals needing assistance and keep it current as part of the facility's emergency plan. At the beginning of a person's employment, during the orientation process, identify if the individual will need special assistance. Of course, since conditions change and people can become temporarily disabled, this system needs to be flexible.

Such lists must be accessible by emergency personnel to assist in emergency evacuation. It should be understood there are many individuals protective of their rights to independence and privacy and who may be reluctant to have their names on such a list. Some disability categories are easily recognizable and in these cases the individual can be approached as to what can be done to assist them in an emergency evacuation.

Some emergency plans have directed all people with disabilities to go to the area of rescue assistance to await members of the emergency team to escort them to safety. As a general rule there is no reason that individuals who are blind or deaf cannot use the stairs to make an independent escape as long as they can effectively be notified of the need to evacuate and can find the stairway.

One of the lessons learned from interviews of people with disabilities following the 1993 World Trade Center bombing was that in the interest of privacy, or because they felt they did not need special assistance, some people had opted not to be identified as disabled in the emergency management plan. They realized after the incident that they did need assistance and that they had not realized how vulnerable they were outside of normal working hours when there were few co-workers around to provide such assistance.

"Buddy" systems and fire wardens

Buddy systems are widely accepted and used but have inherent flaws. When setting up such a system in the workplace, consider the following potential problem areas and potential solutions.

To be effective, the person and the buddy must be able to make contact with each other quickly when the need arises. Situations that can prevent this include:

Now consider the following potential solutions:

If he/she cannot locate the assigned person, the buddy should alert the floor warden. Employees could be given pagers.

New York City leads the nation in a number of techniques for addressing fire safety in tall buildings, including the designation of fire wardens. Under Local Law 5, a fire warden is assigned for each floor of a building and is responsible for the safe evacuation of people on that floor. The fire warden knows who is and who is not at work that day, what visitors are present and who might need assistance in case of an emergency. New York fire wardens take required training at regular intervals. The law also requires a building fire safety manager whose full-time job is to keep fire emergency plans up-to-date and who coordinates the activities of the fire wardens with the fire service during an emergency.

 

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