NOTE: these posts will focus primarily on those that are blind, because that is my experience, However, the material applies to everyone who is disabled or handicapped. I will use the initials of B/VI to indicate blind or visually impaired. This information is absolutely vital for any employer/manager who wishes to keep their employees safe from harm…even if they are a client employee, such as a contracted security company.
In part 1, I posted a conversation that I had with a female friend. It concerned the apparent disinterest and lack of preparedness that her former employer had for disabled employees in an active shooter situation and therefore any emergency.
Since revealing I was writing this series, I have heard from several other B/VI and disabled individuals who have also experienced some of the same issues. I am going to attempt to rectify this situation and give everyone reading this, B/VI or fully sighted, the knowledge they need to prepare and train their employees on the needs of the disabled in the event of an active shooter.
The first item that needs to be done when you have a disabled employee is the training. If you don’t conduct any training in your organization, specifically for disabled employees, workplace violence prevention program (WPV) then it is lost and you will have nothing but confusion. If you have any disabled employees…then they become the likeliest target.
Of course, liability concerns are, and should be, uppermost on the mind of employers. If you don’t train your employees to be prepared for an active shooter, or other emergency, and one of the employees, who just happens to be one of the most vulnerable gets injured or killed because they didn’t know what to do, are you ready to shoulder the:
- Public outrage over your indifferent uncaring attitude?
- Public relations nightmare at the above item?
- Reputation disaster of not preparing your employees for such an incident?
- Liability costs not to mention litigation, and increased insurance premiums?
If a disabled employee is the first target of a mass shooting incident because of that perceived indifference of the company…It is not a rosy prospect for the company in anyone’s view. The hit to your insurance costs and company bottom line will also suffer along with the other items mentioned above. Do you want that?
The next logical question then becomes what can you do to ensure the proper training and the efficient running of an evacuation plan for those that are disabled? It will take more than reading best practices and guidelines out of a manual or been prepared by a professional organization such as SHRM or ASIS.
By no means am I advocating that you don’t hire disabled individuals into your company for cost reasons. I am saying, however, that you need to take each and every individual with a disability and create your training around their needs…not what just works best for 95% of the company.
An example you ask for? You go to the doctor and they tell you that your leg pain is because of muscle cramps. 95% of their patients use this medication and it works best for them so, you should use it also. No blood tests, no MRI’s, or anything else, just take this pill and we’ll hope it turns out for the best. Sound ridiculous? Of course, it is and so is the way you expect your training for the disabled to be just as effective as regular employees.
When training your employees that are disabled in any emergency procedure it is imperative that the materials are provided to them on what to do. It doesn’t matter if this has to be in braille, sign language, or any other adaptive technology. The liability concerns of not training your disabled employees, and providing these materials, may force your company into bankruptcy due to the litigation that will ensue. This is especially true of it is perceived that you are disinterested and don’t care…whether you do or not doesn’t matter, it is the perception.
Each individual needs to be accounted for and given the same basic training in an understandable format. For some B/VI people it may be braille or just a simple teaching presentation. Even if they attend this training session, you must ensure that you don’t simply say “Look at this and go there (pointing to a direction or exit).” This is not sufficient for someone who is B/VI.
Another point here, is that the disabled employees must be able to have their questions answered by a qualified trainer as well…it does no good to train someone and not be able to answer their questions…immediately. I’ve attended sessions where my questions were not answered because it was all videotaped…and a long delay in getting those answers if at all, which means they were conveniently ‘forgotten or lost’, because it was not convenient for… That’s why I don’t like videos to train people, there is no room for questions, and the trainers usually don’t have the answers to serious questions.
The same holds true for an individual who may be deaf or uses an assistive device to move freely about the facility such as a walker or wheelchair. Those individuals, and their co-workers, need specialized training to be prepared for any emergency including an active shooter.
Please understand, that providing these materials may be expensive to the employer, although much lower than litigation. If you check with some of the disabled organizations in your area, they may be able to provide these materials or have them adapted, for little or no cost to you. Just because it may be cost prohibitive is not a reason to ignore those individuals.
Some disabled individuals may need to have the information at their work station for reference. Therefore, it is also vital that they be able to have them on hand so they may review them at any time, not just posters on the wall but at their station. This may mean providing a copyrighted presentation to them, at no charge, to keep at their station.
This goes for whether the presenter, if an outside consultant or trainer agrees or not. Disabled employees need this information on-hand for reference like any other employee does in a poster. If they refuse, then other arrangements must be made.
(the next part of this series will go into exactly how-to train disabled employees as well as what they expect from the employer. This is where the other comments and experiences I received will be presented. I urge all sighted employers/managers to pay close attention to this entire series to assist any and all employees of these items)
Robert D. Sollars helps organizations to safeguard the lives of their employees and students and lessen their risk of violence, as well as with other security–related issues, using time–tested and proven ideas.