Emergency preparedness accommodations for the disabled aren’t as costly as they’re made out to be.
Since the birth of the Americans with Disabilities Act, much has evolved. Supermarket aisles have expanded, schools have ramps, and you can now get on a bus in a wheelchair – something that wasn’t so easy 27 years ago. While this is all progress, our current corporate culture still lags behind in making our world one that’s accessible for everyone.
The biggest problem, surprisingly, may be that partisan against those with impairment still exists for employers. Many organizations feeling to hire someone with a disability means large sums spent on accommodations. The unemployment rate for impaired individuals was a whopping 10.7 percent in 2015, which doesn’t include those that have given up looking for jobs or those who never even entered the job market. That’s twice the amount of unemployment for those without impairment at 5.1 percent.
While hiring a person with a disability comes with many contingencies and aspects to consider, a federal study showed the average cost to be about $200, with one in five costing nothing at all. Many of these office alterations can also act safety measures, making the emergency preparedness for your office inclusive to those with impairments.
Making sure your organization has the right emergency preparedness in place to cater to disabled employees includes risk evaluation and extensive knowledge of legal and regulatory players, but studies have found the costs are not astronomical.
For example, the Job Accommodation Network (JAN), completed a study showing that workplace accommodations are low cost and also positively affected the workplace in more ways than one. In one instance a product technician with a chemical sensitivity was having breathing issues at the office because of chemicals used in production. To accommodate the employer equipped this technician with a face mask, ear plugs, lab coat, and gloves, which were already available from another department. This alteration cost the organization $0, but assisted this employee with their medical issue and increased emergency preparedness when it came to chemical spills.
While this is just one example, modern technology now makes it easier for workplaces to design a corporate culture that feels built for the disabled employee – instead of one only built for only the majority. Offices with disabled employees should harness these advancements to increase emergency preparedness and make everyone feel safe.
For example, offices are discovering more and more that a Mobile Emergency Notification System, is the most cost effective and efficient way of safety management. What’s also helpful, is their multifaceted approach to safety makes it versatile enough to accommodate impaired employees as well. Hearing impaired employees can get visual mobile alerts right on their phones instead of being bypassed by alarms. Also, the two way communication on mobile safety systems allows for disabled employees to communicate with authorities and office administrators in real time during an emergency.
While accommodations like installing ramps can be a few hundred dollars or more, many others are virtually cost free. Proper planning, assigning a buddy system, training sessions, and running regular emergency drills to test procedures, can go a long way in increasing the emergency preparedness for the impaired, and those that aren’t, in your office. Most of what can and needs to be changed are methods and mindsets.
The low cost hiring and creating a safe place for disabled employees exposes the overlooked issue that the problem with disabled individuals isn’t medical, it’s societal. Individuals with disabilities should feel just as safe as those in your organization without and a hiring decision should never be effected by a false assumption that an impaired person can’t keep up.
While there has been much progress since the enactment of ADA, there’s still much to be done. If we all work together we can create a world with an even playing field that’s both accessible and safe for everyone.
Students are taught to use their time wisely, and campuses can do the same by improving their system of mass notification.
Though, we try to prevent crisis situations from occurring on campuses and take precautions for prevention, sometimes dangerous situations happen. In these cases, we must be prepared. Mass notification must be sent in a timely manner to an entire campus so those not yet affected can prepare and protect themselves. The irreplaceable benefits of a mass notification system are why nearly 75 percent of campuses have recently bought or will soon buy a mass notification solution. Communicating to a large amount of people in the least amount of time can, however, pose the largest of challenges.
Think back to the Virginia Tech shooting of 2007. Resulting in 32 deaths and 23 non-fatal injuries, could these have been prevented? Campus officials have been criticized for acting too slowly in taking actions against the horrific on-goings. In this case, too slowly was a matter of five short minutes. Not only did it take too long for public officials to take action, but the university waited two hours to inform students by email about the first shooting, and half an hour later by email again for students to “Please stay put.” Two hours passed before there was an official release, at this point not only are their students in panic, but students were unaware and confused about what happened. Virginia Tech is not the only campus-based instance where time has been of the essence, the Columbine High School massacre of 1999 experienced much longer than a five-minute delay, 40 long minutes passed before the appropriate officials were able to take action. Imagine how these numbers could be different if students, faculty and public officials were all notified with one push of a button.
Shootings on school campuses are not the only events that students, visitors and staff should be notified about. A chemical spill in a science laboratory affects the whole campus, not just the room it happened in. In the Fall of 2016, Saint Xavier University experienced a spill of a half gallon of hydrochloric acid. Getting a chemical spill cleaned quickly is necessary to avoid health hazards. An individual’s health can largely be affected in this instance, not only the students in the laboratory but everyone in that building can be exposed to said chemicals. Students need to know as soon as an incident occurs to evacuate, and responders should be alerted in the same time so the building can be taken care of in the necessary manner.
The Crime Awareness and Campus Security Act of 1990 requires all postsecondary institutions to make “timely warnings to the campus community regarding crimes that pose an ongoing threat to students and employees.” Public safety officials have a moral and ethical obligation to provide the safest environment possible for students and employees. Complying with government regulations and utilizing the features of an app like Punch Alert allows campus security to be as seamless and efficient as ever.
As urban migration increases, more and more people are working in office spaces in giant corporate buildings. When examining an emergency alert system as a company wide safety platform, consider these 5 points for the benefits of having a mobile based emergency alert system.
Having a cell phone, especially a smartphone, has become almost a necessity for people these days. The cell phone bill has become as much a part of our lives as the water or heating payment. 95% of people own a cellphone and 77% of those are smartphones. Because so many people own a mobile device, half of the issue in getting everyone the access to an emergency system platform is solved. For a security company to come in and install a full system in a particular corporation, costs can range from $1500-$2000 just for installation. The cost for mobile based emergency systems can be significantly less.
Many alert systems that corporations use are single action based systems. A fire alarm only alerts if there is a fire. A carbon monoxide detector only alerts high CO levels. But what if anything else happens? Mobile applications can be tailored to have an array of functions for the user. Most applications on the app store are updated on a monthly and, for a few, a weekly basis. With apps being so versatile, an emergency alert system with a host of safety functions are easily accessible to the user in times of an emergency.
3. Eyes Everywhere
One of the most critical aspects of an emergency is communication. In New York, city officials used a mobile device based emergency alert system to notify patrons of the city of a suspected bomber. Mayor Bill de Blasio called the system “a very valuable tool.” While New York is a little bigger than an office space, buildings are still very large. Office buildings built after the year 2000 have an average size of 19,000 square feet. Emergency alert systems that are in your pocket can alert you of something happening even if you are in a completely different area of the office building or space.
In the event where silence is of the utmost importance, having a mobile device app that can silently send out a request for help is crucial. Where the average response time of police is 11 minutes, it is important that people in a harmful situation do not create sounds that can attract danger. Mobile device based emergency apps can help avoid exactly that. If, in the unfortunate and terrifying event where a person holding a firearm has made their way into a particular work space – an alarm going off to alert everyone within the office may only escalate the situation. An app that can silently report a problem across a platform to many users at the same time can achieve the exact same goal as a silent alarm.
5. Ease of Use
Safety app producing companies such as Punch Alert have worked with safety experts and leading UX designers in order to make their product as easily navigable as possible. What is the point of using an app that is hard to use when you are in an emergency? One would already be stressed and traumatized in the situation and app designers know that. Besides safety, designers number one goal is to have their users be comfortable using their application. At work, people already have a lot on their plate. In the event of an emergency, it should be as easy as can be to ensure one’s safety.
Saving money is crucial for businesses to prosper and adding unnecessary expenses of course seems foolish. Considering emergency alert systems, moving to a mobile device based platform can decrease costs while leaving workers with a mindset of increased safety.
We were honored to be invited to speak about our app with TechBlogWriter.co.uk
We spoke about how we use GPS and RFID beacon technology to make people safer especially in places where groups of people gather like colleges, sports events, hospitals and in cities and places of work.
Security information can be crowdsourced from groups of people and warnings and emergency plans can be disseminated back out to them almost instantaneously.
We are excited about everything our safety app can do and know this is one idea whose time has come.
Check out the podcast
You can join our newsletter to stay up-to-date with Punch Alert.
The term “Value” is one of those words like “suspicious” or “reasonable”; it means a little something different depending on who you ask to explain it. For security (a very important division for any company but one that typically does not generate revenue for its organization) it is an even more difficult term to define. One of the age old questions for security is how to prove your preventative value as related to criminal activity since the bad actors are not willing to tell us if they decide not to commit a crime because of our presence or the use of our tools (cameras, access controls, etc.). There are a few ways, however, that professional security practitioners can describe our contributions and attach some tangible and intangible ”value” to them, and this starts with a change of culture, such as using the term investment rather than cost when describing security related resources. A new CCTV or access control system should not be presented as a cost of doing business, but an investment towards a safer environment, and similarly many of the services that we provide today can be described better when presenting to company management.
A few basic principles for proving ones value is to define what you do for the organization (duties, operational plans), why you provide them (cost efficiency, safety), how much you do (metrics) and how well you provide them (key performance indicators). For example, often security personnel are assigned non-traditional duties such a minor maintenance functions after hours. If we apply the previous principles to answer why this type duty is important, then one might explain it by defining the duty itself (checking a boiler setting), why security is doing it (to prevent overtime costs of calling a maintenance person back after hours and to provide a safety check on critical equipment), how often you do it (hourly) and well this service is provided (no unexpected downtime or issues related to boiler events for the past 18 months). As you can see, describing almost any duty or responsibility in such terms is not that difficult to do, but it does require practice and discipline in order to appropriately document it routinely and in such a manner that the information can be beneficial when validating resources.
So let’s take this basic premise and use it to translate one of the easiest and most effective ways that a security program can increase its value to the facility and positively affect the overall culture of the organization, that of security related education of employees. First determine what types of security related training would be most beneficial to the staff of your particular organization. While there are many to choose from, a very common and topical issue currently is that of reducing workplace violence. Workplace violence can run a very broad spectrum from simple intimidation and verbal threats all the way to active shooter events, therefore it lends itself as a great topic for the creation of a significant number of separate and equally valuable educational opportunities that security can provide to the organization. You could start with one of the many facets of workplace violence (effective de-escalation and conflict resolution techniques for example) and then after sufficient research begin using the principles that were described earlier.
What will such training consist of?
- Why are you providing this training?
- How much training is needed?
- How valuable will this training be?
The last point is the real test of your ability to translate such a program into both tangible and intangible value as a necessary investment to your management.
Let’s begin with the intangible value, which is usually much more difficult to translate into dollars and cents. Some of the more common intangible and important benefits that an effective workplace violence training program can provide includes the strengthening of a security culture across the organization, a positive impact on staff and client satisfaction (perhaps an increase in positive customer service survey scores) and the meeting and exceeding of any regulatory requirements (the penalty for not doing so ranging from negative branding of the organization to fines). While each of these benefits is very important, they are difficult to assign as far as a clearly defined financial impact. This is where you as the security professional need to do some research.
If you calculated the cost of such a workplace violence prevention program, you may find that such a program could cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars when using a third party to provide such a program (this includes associated costs such as travel, lodging, per diems and any fees of the instructor). Alternately, if you were to invest the time in learning these concepts and becoming an instructor in a similarly themed program, the same financial impact to your organization would drop dramatically. Take this same approach to multiple programs and you can very quickly validate the investment of teaching such classes in-house as well as provide the many intangible benefits mentioned previously.
The same principles of cost avoidance can be applied to many of the physical countermeasures that security often replies upon as force multipliers (since we typically cannot afford to have security personnel in every area 24 / 7). Imagine the expenditure of installing multiple duress alarms in a facility (to include the devices themselves, wire pulls and other labor, the sealing of any penetrations to meet fire codes, etc.) as opposed to researching the implementation of a virtual cloud based application that could not only summon assistance from any enrolled portable device (no equipment purchases or labor costs) but could also be expanded to meet the growing needs of your staff and clients through simple programming updates and provide real time notification to the people that need to know when a adverse event occurs. Such a technology enhancement not only saves tangible dollars, it creates a proactive security culture in which every person is a key stakeholder by empowering them with the ability to share vital information easily and quickly.
Validating appropriate resources for security can be a difficult endeavor, even more so with an increased “more with less” approach for non-revenue generating departments. Since the preventative value of security is difficult to prove, each professional security practitioner must do his or her best to take existing data and translate it into a language that your C-Suite will understand. So is appropriate security an investment or a cost? It depends upon how one approaches the issue, but keep in mind that one cannot purchase insurance coverage after an adverse event has occurred, and it’s too late to add additional security measures after an event has taken place. Better to build a good security reputation than to try and repair one after it has been damaged.
Punch Alert can add value to your organizations security
“Bryan Warren is Director of Corporate Security for Carolinas HealthCare System, based in Charlotte, N.C. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice, an MBA with a focus on legal foundations of healthcare and has over 27 years of healthcare security experience. He is a former President of the IAHSS, a member of ASIS, and participates in a number of professional associations and national taskforces. Bryan has been named as one of the Top 20 Most Influential People in Security by Security Magazine and as one of the Top 30 Voices in Healthcare Security by Forbes”.