Emergency Preparedness

Barriers and opportunities

The State Analysis Assessment Report is the first output of WP2. It is a state analysis that aims to depict the current situation across Europe regarding the inclusion of people with disabilities in emergency preparedness. The report was developed following interviews with experts, online surveys and desk-based research. The results of the state analysis showed that almost half of the respondents do not have an emergency preparedness plan for people with disabilities in their company’s emergency preparedness material. Alternatively, people with disabilities are included in the common plan, which means that they follow general instructions and not specific instructions that cater to their needs. This is a troubling finding because people with disabilities may face additional challenges and barriers during emergencies and disasters.

The report also reveals that the largest percentage of respondents reported that their company does not provide all employees with training related to emergency preparedness with a focus on people with disabilities. Additionally, they do not have sufficient information to create accessible and safe workplaces for every person with a disability who either works or may visit their company. There is, therefore, a lack of information, awareness and training on this important issue, which could have serious consequences for the well-being and safety of disabled employees in the event of an emergency.

At the same time, 32% of respondents do not have a dedicated expert on emergency preparedness, suggesting that there is room for improvement to enhance the preparedness and response capacity of some companies.

Furthermore, 89% of respondents stated that they would benefit from specialized training on emergency preparedness, with a focus on people with disabilities. The most frequently preferred types of training are practical training (on-site) and simulation of the real situation in virtual reality. These types of training are practical, interactive, and provide realistic exposure and adaptability for people with disabilities.

The report also highlights that employees with disabilities are often part of common training in most organizations, or else there is often no provision for specific instructions for these people. This suggests that often employees with disabilities do not receive specialized training and their training opportunities are unequal. Also, there is a lack of clarity and consistency among people with disabilities about what to do in emergency situations.

The interviews conducted also examined whether all employees are aware of the emergency procedures for people with disabilities. The conclusion drawn from the responses is that there is a lack of awareness and training of employees on how to assist and evacuate people with disabilities during a crisis. This is a serious issue that needs to be addressed by management and safety coordinators. Organizations shall provide an inclusive culture and support for employees with disabilities. The already possible general trainings provided would be extended with special trainings for and about people with disabilities.

Finally, most of the experts interviewed indicated that they have flexible emergency preparedness materials that can be adapted to new government regulations or new situations in their company. The responses indicate that participants prefer hands-on training and e-learning as the main ways of learning. Hands-on training refers to activities that allow participants to apply their knowledge and skills in real or simulated situations.

Taking into account all the above findings, a step-by-step methodological framework is proposed to promote disability-inclusive emergency planning in the workplace.


Stakeholder Map

To ensure efficient coordination, it is necessary to prepare appropriate plans. Such plans should specify both the evacuation concept and depending on existing conditions, as well as determining the necessary resources to carry out this task. The condition for the effectiveness of the plan is its validity, which must be checked by regularly conducting an inventory of resources and verifying the adopted solutions. It is necessary to prepare a response plan in the event of a threat in the form of: preparation of orderly, logical, rational actions) in the form of standard operating procedures in crisis management plans for the evacuation of disabled persons taking into account the fact that disabled people do not form a uniform groups of people; information and educational activities, acquisition of evacuation skills by the disabled themselves through appropriate training during a potential threat.

The implementation of an emergency preparedness plan should involve appropriately developed procedures and guidelines for dealing with emergencies, methods of alerting (even individual) disabled people, as well as additional responsibilities of other employees of the facility from which the emergency response is being carried out.

When planning, the employer should pay attention to the type and degree of disability, the age of the disabled person and the possible use of assistance from other employees for evacuation purposes. Consideration should also be given to disabled visitors.

For people with disabilities, safe evacuation should include:

  1. type and degree of disability and age of the evacuated persons,
  2. cooperation in evacuation on the part of other persons, e.g. employees and others at the time staying in the building.

People with different disabilities also react differently to emergencies (Disability Etiquette):

  1. Visually impaired people have no fear of the dark and the moment threats perform appropriately described voice commands.
  2. People with hearing disabilities are not limited in their mobility and can walk on their own move around and carry out the demonstrated commands and evacuation activities.
  3. People with intellectual disabilities are physically fit and able to exercise evacuation activities and have a relatively high level of obedience to instructions from a person they know, e.g. an academic teacher.
  4. Persons with mobility disabilities have full and constant contact with the environment by means of all receptors and have no communication barriers.

Considerations towards the methodology development

Driving requirements

The methodology provides a planning and decision-support framework to support target group in achieving disability inclusion in their emergency response plans. It sets out a series of steps needed for a successful emergency preparedness strategy in a consistent and harmonised way. The following aspects have been considered in the selection of key elements to include and analyse in the design of the methodology and its implementation in the TOOLBOX:

  • Know your tools and resources
  • Develop a plan
  • Educate

Selection of elements as part of the methodology

The TOOLBOX is a platform that will combine various information and resources, acting as a comprehensive collection of documents and tools. The methodology presented in this document is based on the type of information that the target business is advised to use in creating a solid, stable and sustainable strategy. The following elements are included in the methodology as references and tools to source. Examples are provided for each element type:

  • Open tools
  • General overview documents
  • Guideline and supporting methodological tools
  • Training materials
  • Templates as working document to use for interacting and checking the progress of the implementation plans
  • Real cases to inspire the target groups in different important aspects related to for establishing an emergency preparedness plans
  • Technical/financial recommendations

The full list of resources included in the methodology is in Table 1 (Annex). The list identifies the resource type and format and the part of the methodology where it is made available.


Methodology workflow

The PRODIGY methodology is a methodological step-by-step framework to promote workplace emergency planning with disability inclusion. This framework is divided into a methodology for either developing or updating emergency preparedness strategy plans. Figure 1 shows the workflow of the PRODIGY methodology and the logical streams that connect the blocks.  It consists of three main blocks that represent the key phases of the process: assessment, planning and implementation.

Figure 1: Main phases of the methodology

Depending on the level of maturity of the business, the methodology follows two different approaches. Thus, the first step is to determine whether companies have an existing emergency preparedness plan and wish to update it to be more inclusive of people with disabilities, or if there is no specific emergency preparedness strategy and wish to go back to the key stages of formulating a comprehensive strategy that includes people with disabilities.

Companies are invited to start with Phase 1 in order to assess their state of emergency preparedness and inclusion of persons with disabilities, the challenges and opportunities they face. Based on the preliminary assessment, companies are ready to start developing or updating their emergency preparedness plan (Phase 2) and then their implementation plan, assigning the necessary human and financial resources (Phase 3).

The methodology consists of a consecutive consequence of steps within each phase, as shown in the figures below. However, each phase and step are self-contained and not dependent on the others. The suggested order is only a recommendation to ensure that no relevant information is overlooked during the process, but users can skip steps that they have already completed before using this methodology. The decision to follow all the steps or navigate randomly through the available information is up to the users.

Figure 2: Methodology workflow for developing a new workplace emergency preparedness strategy plan

Figure 3: Methodology workflow for updating an existing workplace emergency preparedness plan

Presentation of information in the methodology

In the following chapters, the phases and steps are described in detail, including the necessary resources needed to implement them. To this end, there are some clarifications to highlight in order to facilitate the understanding of methodology and how the final users will have access to the resources available in the TOOLBOX and how to use them.

Introduction of the Phase:
Each phase includes a short introduction that describes the aim of the phase and what the user can expect. It also includes a reference titled “Who to involve in this phase?” in order to provide complementary information on the target groups need to engage in such phase.

Steps overview and/or description:
Each phase describes the sequence of steps to be followed. Each step includes the following information:

  • Objective: Objective of the step, clarifying what the user will gain at the end of such step
  • Action: An indication on how to use the resources available in that step
  • Material: It clarifies which are the available resources (type of resource). In the TOOLBOX, at this point the user will be able to download the resources indicated.

Recommended/Available Resources:
The resources needed to implement the actions of each step. The resources could be useful links, reports, good practices, guidelines, etc.

Considerations towards implementation:
Extra information to bear in mind when implementing the steps or using the resources made available, also definitions, clarifications or technical recommendations.


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