The Disability Evacuation Program: Reducing Risks

 

It began with the horror stories about people with disabilities being trapped in the World Trade Center disaster. Motivated by this frightening vision, Kevin G. McGuire, an acknowledged expert in disability-related issues, set out to design a program that would assist property owners and managers in developing a comprehensive, practi­cal, and affordable plan to evacuate people with disabilities in an emer­gency.

 

Recently, McGuire Associates, Inc., released its Disability Evacuation Pro­gram (DEP) on two DVDs, complete with a detailed companion guidebook.  The first guide of its kind, it embodies the collective experience of McGuire Associates, a consulting firm, which has been advising clients on disability related issues since the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) took effect in 1992.

 

"The nation's emphasis on security is certainly important, and the needs of people with disabilities must not be overlooked. They are very likely to be most at risk in any act of terrorism or natural disaster that strikes the struc­ture they are in," said McGuire, founder of the organization bearing his name.  A wheelchair user since the age of seven, McGuire has more than a professional interest in the swift, safe evacuation of people with disabilities.

 

In deciding to develop the DEP, McGuire was also mindful of the significant legal liabilities faced by facility owners who fail to set up a compre­hensive evacuation plan.  "Having such a plan is required by law. Resulting lawsuits could be ruin­ous," warns McGuire, a graduate of Georgetown University Law Center.  "While most facilities have an evacua­tion plan for the non-disabled public, very few have one that anticipates the unique needs of employees, visitors, residents, customers and students with disabilities. And as our nation ages, the issue of people with disabilities will become even more important."

 

The DEP Program material visually and verbally walks building owners, managers, and/or tenants through disability-related evacuation issues, which include:

 

 

"One of the greatest dangers to people with disabilities," McGuire continued, "is the failure of building owners and managers to fully grasp the wide range of disabilities that exist, and the special plans, procedures and products required in the event of an evacua­tion."  McGuire's DVDs and guide­books permit the planner to respond to the needs of all persons with dis­abilities which include mobility impairment (walkers, canes, crutches, etc.), people who are blind/visually impaired, deaf/hearing impaired, wheelchair users, cognitive/emotion­ally impaired persons, people of size, and elderly people.

 

McGuire predicts that enforcement of federal requirements for the safe evacuation of people with disabilities will be aggressively pursued now that the Department of Homeland Security has been raised to Cabinet level status.  "It's an interesting dynamic," said McGuire, "the push is coming from two different directions. In addition to federal enforcement, the disabled community wants to be sure that whenever they enter a building, there is a plan to get them out if there is an emergency evacuation."

 

For more information, visit www.mcguireassociatesinc.com