Emergency Preparedness for Individuals with Disabilities

It is important for all individuals to establish an emergency plan and know the procedures before anything happens. Individuals with disabilities should follow the general guidance contained in the Emergency Procedures Guide and the “Emergency Procedures” tab of the GoucherSafe app, as well as the instructions provided below. The college strongly urges all students, faculty and staff to register for emergency text and email alerts, and download the Gopher Help app. Please contact the Office of Public Safety if you are unable to download the application.

Watch the following videos from the Minger Foundation to learn how to respond to a variety of emergency situations. Additional information can be found on FEMA’s website.

Preparing Before an Emergency

Self-Identification

At the beginning of each semester, individuals who have disabilities that limit their mobility are responsible for informing their supervisors (if employees), Residence Life Staff (if residential students), or the Office of Public Safety (all students, staff and faculty) of their name and location in case of an emergency. This includes building names and room numbers, as well as the nature of their disabilities and the type of assistance needed in an emergency. The information will be stored with the Office of Public Safety and given to the Baltimore County Fire Department during emergencies. The rescue of individuals with disabilities who are unable to evacuate themselves will be an initial priority for responding fire units.

Personal Emergency Plan

Every individual should work with college officials, including the Office of Public Safety to develop an emergency plan that outlines appropriate resources and responses in the event of an emergency. The plan should include specific evacuation procedures, sheltering procedures, and means of communication in the event of an emergency. It should also contain:

  • For each of the buildings that the individual frequents, the safest location on each floor where he/she can await assistance from emergency personnel;

  • Communication tools that the individual can use to inform emergency personnel of his/her location;

  • The names of at least two rescue assistants who are willing and able to provide assistance to the individual during an emergency. A rescue assistant should be a friend who is likely to be in the same building at a similar time as the individual. The rescue assistant should familiarize themselves with appropriate procedures by reviewing the Emergency Procedures Guide or the “Emergency Procedures” tab of the Gopher Help app and the section of this website on assisting individuals with disabilities.

During an Emergency

Individuals should familiarize themselves with the Emergency Procedures Guide (PDF) or the Emergency Procedures tab on the “Goucher Safe” application for the appropriate response to various types of emergencies. The guide dictates two basic responses to emergency situations: sheltering in place or leaving the building. The college's emergency communications will indicate which step to follow in case of emergencies, but it's best that members of the campus community develop a basic knowledge of which response is appropriate for various situations.

Evacuations

Elevators should never be used in an evacuation. Individuals who are unable to use the stairs to exit should ask for assistance or proceed to the nearest enclosed stairwell (one that has doors at every entrance) and wait for the Baltimore County Fire Department or the Goucher College Office of Public Safety (GCOPS) to arrive. The Fire Department and Public Safety officers will attempt to check all areas, including restrooms, to communicate the need to evacuate. Individuals with disabilities should immediately notify 911 and the Office of Public Safety at (410) 337-6112 if they are unable to evacuate.

Enclosed building stairwells have a higher fire resistive rating. To aid protection, ensure that the door to the stairwell is tightly closed, as open doors will allow smoke and possibly fire into the stairwell. Someone may stay with the person requiring assistance if it does not place them in additional danger and if another person is able to meet responding fire fighters to report the location of those in the stairwell.

Shelter in place

Individuals should shelter in place during some emergencies and any time there is the potential for fire or explosion in that immediate area. Individuals who are unable to get to an enclosed stairwell during an evacuation should also shelter in place. Directions for how to best shelter in place for each of these scenarios are available in the Emergency Procedures Guide or the "Emergency Procedures" tab of the Gopher Help app.

Assisting individuals with disabilities

In an emergency, community members should assist individuals with disabilities in the following ways:

  • Ensure that the individual is aware of the emergency. Inform deaf or hard-of-hearing persons of the emergency individually; do not assume that they know what is happening from watching others.

  • Before attempting to offer assistance, always ask individuals with a disability how you can best assist them and whether there are any special considerations that should be made or items that need to come with them.

  • You may assist in evacuating individuals with disabilities if it does not place you in personal danger. Note: non-emergency personnel should never attempt to carry anyone down the stairs.

  • Assist individuals who are blind or have low vision by guiding them to safety.

  • Assist individuals who are unable to use the stairs by guiding them to an enclosed stairwell (one that is separated from the main building area by doors). Close the doors to the stairwell tightly and notify 911 and then the Office of Public Safety of the individual's location. You may stay with the person requiring assistance if it does not place you in additional danger and if there is another person able to meet emergency personnel to report the location of the individuals in the stairwell.

Non-Emergency Situations

Individuals with disabilities who need assistance leaving a building in a non-emergency situation (such as an elevator or power outages) should contact the Goucher College Office of Public Safety at (410) 337-6112.