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38 To ensure that accessible communications strategies will meet the needs of the intended users during an emergency, the strategies the airport has chosen to implement must be incorporated into the airportâs existing emergency preparedness programs (see Figure 11). Specifically, this involves integrating the new strategies into existing emergency plans, operational training, and emergency exercises: â¢ Emergency plans like the airportâs Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) can be updated, or new CONOPs or Functional Annex documents can be developed that describe the airportâs strategies, policies, and processes for disseminating emergency communications in accessible formats. â¢ Training (including accessibility training) must be provided as operational training for both the individuals who are responsible for disseminating messaging and the airport employees who will support emergency communications for people with DAFN in real time. â¢ Emergency exercises can be expanded to test the airportâs policies and processes for support- ing people with DAFN in all aspects of assistance, including emergency communications. Emergency Planning Equipment and technology are key aspects to enhancing the accessibility of communication during an emergency. However, preparedness measures, such as planning, training, and exer- cises, are critical to ensure the airport uses the equipment and technology effectively. Revision of Existing Plans According to FAA Advisory A/C 150/5200-31C, airport emergency plans (AEPs) must address âspecial needsâ populations (sight or hearing, mobility impairments, and unaccompanied children). However, many AEPs do not yet go beyond basic, minimum ADA accessibility stan- dards. Due to changing regulations, facility construction and improvements, and emerging research on technologies and threats, an AEP is a âliving documentâ that must be kept up to date. The required annual plan maintenance schedule offers a regular opportunity for the integration of accessibility content. Procedures and processes for developing and disseminating emergency notifications may be captured in existing documents that involve notification, messaging, and public information, including AEPs and crisis communications plans. A template for creating a CONOPS for Emergency Communications for People with DAFN is included with this report as Appendix F. The policies and procedures in existing plans that relate to the dissemination of emergency information through visual methods (e.g., monitors or displays, social media, and so forth) and C H A P T E R 5 Incorporating the Strategies into an Emergency Preparedness Program
Incorporating the Strategies into an Emergency Preparedness Program 39 audio methods (e.g., PA systems) should be updated to include relevant accessibility strategies, such as: â¢ Foreign translation of audio announcements based on the needs of the airport population/ traveling population â¢ Foreign translation of digital messages pushed out on social media (e.g., Twitter, Facebook, and so forth) and via text messaging â¢ Dissemination of real-time or pre-recorded audio and video messages in multiple languages â¢ Development and dissemination of pre-recorded video messages in ASL â¢ Development and dissemination of pre-recorded video messages using picture boards and/or text with large print â¢ Development and dissemination of pre-scripted messages in braille that have been placed in strategic locations of the airport â¢ Adaptations of messages or the development of additional messages that cater to the needs of people with DAFN (see text box below) â¢ Adaptations of messages or the development of additional messages that are simple enough for children to understand â¢ Availability and application of specialized technology to assist people with DAFN in accessing communications (e.g., loop technology) Effective Emergency Messaging At many airports, emergency messages are developed in coordination with the public infor- mation officer (PIO), the communications office, the external affairs office, the emergency Incorporate Strategies into Emergency Preparedness Program STEP 3 Develop DAFN Emergency Communications Strategies STEP 2 Identify DAFN Emergency Communication Needs STEP 1 â¢ Include in Emergency Plans â¢ Deliver Accessibility Training â¢ Integrate DAFN into Emergency Exercises â¢ Apply Core Techniques â¢ Identify Enhancements to Fill Gaps â¢ Implement Strategies â¢ Inventory DAFN Services â¢ Conduct Self-Assessment â¢ Identify Gaps Figure 11. Step 3: Ongoing planning, training, and exercises ensure that accessible emergency communications strategies are relevant, accurate, and effective. Going Beyond the Basics Formulating a robust emergency plan is no small task. For example, the Airport Emergency Plan (AEP) Checklist posted online by FAAâs Great Lakes Region Airports Division is 33 pages long, but it mentions âspecial needsâ populations only four times (FAA 2010). Nonetheless, existing emergency plan documents and checklists provide a framework that, with input from the DAFN advisory group, can be expanded to address the needs of people with DAFN.
40 Airport Emergency Communications for People with Disabilities and Others with Access and Functional Needs management department, and/or airport administration. Messages can be developed for a variety of audiences and support various emergency functions, including: â¢ Emergency warnings and notifications for employees â¢ Emergency notifications for airport occupants, tenants, airlines, and the traveling public â¢ Protective action instructions for evacuation and sheltering in place â¢ Evacuation wayfinding â¢ Social media messaging and website content â¢ Press releases and/or press conferences Critical questions for developing effective messaging include the following: â¢ What is the simplest and most effective text that will convey the message and that includes information about the current situation and actions that need to be taken by the intended audience? â¢ What airport employee (position title) is responsible for disseminating the message? â¢ What tools, technologies, or systems are required to transmit the message? â¢ When will this message be disseminated, and what specific conditions will trigger dissemina- tion of the message? Training Two types of training are crucial for implementing a successful accessible communications response: (1) emergency operations training and (2) disability equality training (DET), which includes disability awareness and sensitivity training (DAST). Operations training ensures that the individuals responsible for carrying out policies and procedures for creating, disseminating, and updating emergency messages in accessible formats know how to fulfill their duties. DET encourages all airport employees to have the skills needed to support people with DAFN in receiving, understanding, and acting on these messages. Emergency Operations Training Once processes and procedures have been written, it is essential to train primary, secondary, and tertiary personnel to know the procedures to follow and activate the correct processes for communicating emergency messages. Training is a crucial element of developing effective emer- gency response plans and messaging. Industries touted as being more effective in their response to emergencies tend to be those that regularly train and conduct exercise drills with security employees, first responders, and volunteers from the public. Adapting Messaging for People with DAFN Emergency communications designed for people with DAFN must consider the additional challenge of having to account for the varying capabilities of individuals receiving the messages to carry out emergency instructions. Not only is it necessary to use a variety of communications methods that provide instructions in differing waysâit may also be necessary to provide different instructions altogether. For example, the general instruction may be to evacuate a concourse, but the instruction for people who are mobility impaired may be to shelter in place. Emergency communications are highly context-sensitive.
Incorporating the Strategies into an Emergency Preparedness Program 41 DET DET goes beyond the traditional DAST approach, which relies on an outmoded medical model of disability that focuses on the âimpairmentsâ or âlimitationsâ of people with disabilities. DET incorporates elements of DAST, but DET is based on the social model of disability that asks people to try to understand how current society and physical infrastructure perpetuates discriminatory practices. Most airport employees have daily experience interacting with a variety of people with DAFN. However, most of those interactions relate to the transit of people through the airport rather than assisting people with DAFN during emergencies. Every airport employee, including contractors and vendors, plays an important role in an emergency. During an emergency, people with communications needs may not be able to hear verbal announcements, see direc- tional signs to emergency services, or understand messages. If they are well prepared, airport staff can assist the travelers in their immediate area to comply with emergency instructions without jeopardizing their own safety. Instilling the mentality that âeveryone is a first responderâ is an essential part of enhancing support to people with DAFN. When airport employees understand how to help, they will feel empowered to take action during an emergency. Appendix G includes an interactive DET empathy activity that can be conducted with employees to help them understand how to interact with people with DAFN to better support them under non-emergency and emergency condi- tions. When evaluating an airportâs internal accessibility awareness training, ADA coordinators and emergency management staff are encouraged to consider integrating the DET activity and other accessibility outreach materials (such as the brochure and poster included in Appendix H) into the existing curricula and materials. It is also suggested that airports solicit feedback from airlines and airline training providers to identify improvements to wheelchair services in the airport. In the research for this report, Awareness and Outreach Materials Outreach materials can be distributed to airport employees to help build aware- ness about how to assist people with DAFN. Brochures or flyers can be distributed to employees during orientation, as part of DET training activities, or on a periodic basis. Posters can be hung in staff areas, such as kitchens and break rooms. Sample training outreach materialsânotably, a poster and brochureâhave been provided included in Appendix H. Some key points that should be included as part of outreach materials are: â¢ Treat a person with DAFN as considerately as you would like to be treated. â¢ Ask the person how he or she prefers to communicate (e.g., through speaking, notes, gestures, pictures, an interpreter, or some other means). â¢ Look at and speak directly to the person with DAFN. â¢ Ask the person if he or she would like help. â¢ Do not make assumptions. It is also important to remember that individuals may have invisible disabilities that may or may not be worsened during an emergency. These disabilities could include asthma, chronic immune and pain-related conditions (e.g., fibromyalgia) or cardiac conditions.
42 Airport Emergency Communications for People with Disabilities and Others with Access and Functional Needs respondents mentioned a lack of coordination between air carriers and airports concerning training. Respondents indicated that airlines use established training providers to train their staff on how to accommodate people with DAFN, but that the airline training is not coordi- nated with the airportâs wheelchair or mobility service providers. Several interviewees stated that wheelchair providers are not included in the planning and decision-making processes conducted by airlines. âIt is essential to get airlines to understand how important wheelchair providers are as an asset,â one respondent stated. Exercises Emergency preparedness, including emergency exercises or drills, are necessary to test how effective communications strategies and accommodations to include people with DAFN would be during an actual emergency incident and to determine ways to improve those services. As part of conducting these exercises, it is critical that airports, airlines, and agencies clearly outline all responsibilities toward passengers. Emergency drills are more realistic when the DAFN community is involved (Smith and Haines 2018). The DAFN advisory group or committee can help an airport find various ways to integrate communication strategies that include members of the DAFN community into emergency exercises. Some suggestions are: â¢ Include at least one objective in each exercise that relates to meeting the needs of people with DAFN. (For additional guidance, see Appendix I). Valuable Exercise Feedback During the research for this report, one airport provided detailed notes from a full-scale emergency exercise that had included one participant who is deaf and another participant who speaks Spanish. The airport has allowed the full document (minus identifying details) to be included as Appendix K. Following the exercise, the âcrash victimâ who is deaf reported experiencing a near-total communications breakdown. After the initial encounter with first responders, during which the participant communicated using only sign language, no information regarding this personâs communication needs was relayed to sub- sequent emergency or operations personnel. No one attempted to communicate with this individual after the first encounter, and he was never offered any form of writing instrument, paper, or cell phone to type on or use as a means of communication. The participant expressed concern that if people did not attempt to communicate with him during an exercise, it was likely they would not try during an actual emergency. This participantâs experience highlights an example in which use of a very basic technologyâpen and paperâwould have made a world of difference to effective communications. For this airport, a major âtakeawayâ from conducting this full-scale exercise was that it is the human element that is especially key to meeting the emergency communications needs of people with DAFN. The exercise reinforced that human engagement and effortsâand effective training to facilitate those effortsâ are essential to communicating with people with DAFN during emergencies.
Incorporating the Strategies into an Emergency Preparedness Program 43 â¢ Include people with DAFN in the exercise or drill to enhance the awareness and under- standing of airport staff, regional partners, and first responders with respect to planning considerations for people with DAFN. â¢ Integrate a variety of accessibility considerations for people with DAFN into the drills, including emergency communications, transportation, mass care, and search and rescue. â¢ Craft a scenario that includes considerations for people with DAFN. (For examples, see the vignettes included in Appendix J). â¢ Encourage relevant airport staff to participate in emergency exercises for the county or surrounding cities to take advantage of additional opportunities to test accessible communi- cation systems and processes. Exercises and drills provide helpful information about areas for improvement in accommo- dations for people with DAFN. Conducting exercises to test how well the airportâs emergency strategies include people with DAFN is an effective way to avoid issues during an actual incident.