Doubt arises around adequate safety for students with disabilities
Procedures for evacuation of people with disabilities cloudy
Published: Tuesday, October 29, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, October 29, 2013 13:10
For students with a disability at Contra Costa College, a level of doubt arises in concern for their safety on campus in the event of a major earthquake.
Although CCC provides procedures for earthquake safety, faculty, staff and students are unaware of how to properly assist people with disabilities.
The Hayward Fault extends 74 miles from the San Pablo Bay to San Jose, running directly through the southern half of campus. The fault last produced an earthquake in 1868 with a magnitude of 7.0, according to the California Department of Conversation.
There is a 31 percent chance of the Hayward Fault generating an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.7 or greater within the next 30 years, according to a 2008 Uniform California Earthquake Rupture Forecast report. Executive Director of the Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center Dr. Yousef Bozorgnia said preparation is necessary to prevent any injuries for a student with disabilities.
Out of the 7,026 students currently enrolled for the fall 2013 semester, there are nearly 1,000 registered in the Disabled Students Program and Services, DSPS Manager Yasuko Abe said.
With students having communication limitations, hearing impairment, visual impairment, mobility impairment, functional needs or other disabilities, they may not be capable of following procedures provided by the college.
"We have huge challenges,” Abe said. “The program is only optional for students. Out of the registered students, there are still students with different disabilities going to different buildings.”
She said the information registered in DSPS is not disclosed to faculty in respect of the student’s confidentiality.
"We need to prepare regardless of whatever their abilities are," she said.
The Americans With Disabilities Act requires the college to offer services and accommodations that fit the needs of an individual. Failure to promptly address any temporary interruptions would place the college in violation of ADA code 36.203.
Because CCC is a public institution, all employees are declared disaster service workers under the Emergency Services Act.
Sociology department Chairperson Manu Ampim said that in the case of an emergency he would have to rely on his instincts to assist a student with a disability due to a lack of instruction.
"We have no written instruction, no rehearsing. There was no training given," Ampim said. "We would have to think quickly in helping a student with a disability."
In the event of an earthquake, employees shall refer to the Earthquake Disaster and Emergency Operations plans in CCC's Procedures Handbook, which provide specific guidelines for not only employees, but for every single individual experiencing an earthquake.
During an earthquake, individuals are to drop down to the floor and cover under a table until the shaking stops and it is safe to move.
For individuals who have a mobile impairment, it is suggested that they protect their heads and neck with their arms and bend over if possible. To avoid being trapped, it is advised they do not drop onto the floor.
Health and human sciences major Calma Brown said she would not know what to do in the event of an earthquake. Brown, who has spinal stenosis and degenerative joint disease, does not have the same privilege as others to drop down under a table at a moment’s notice.
“I don’t think I can get down there that quickly. That’s going to be a major problem,” she said. “I think each instructor should address (emergency procedures for students with a disability) the first few days when classes start.”
The Safety Monitor Program is administered by the district to prepare volunteered building monitors for quick and effective response in the face of a disaster. Each monitor is responsible for communication, assistance and ensuring safety within their designated building.
They have a manual of suggested responses to specific situations, including guidelines for people who may require additional assistance during an emergency.
Health Sciences Building monitor Dr. Marshall Alameida, after skimming the section ‘Persons with Functional Needs and Access Limitations,’ said, "We (safety monitors) should be committing this to memory. You wouldn't have the time to play with a checklist (during an emergency.)”
According to that section, it is critical these individuals receive assistance to remain safe.
In assisting a student with functional needs, the monitors must remain calm, inform them of the nature of the emergency and ask them if they need help.
In assisting a student with communication limitations, the monitors must use basic communication methods, take the time to listen carefully and ask yes or no questions.
In assisting a student with visual impairments, the monitors should have the student take their elbow and escort him or her to safety while advising them of any upcoming obstacles.
In assisting a student with hearing impairments, the monitor should look directly at him or her while communicating. Communication should be slow and clear while using hand gestures, as the person may read lips and have a concise understanding.