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  • Office of the State Auditor

The UMass Amherst Office of Environmental Health and Safety Did Not Document Personal Emergency Action Plans for Students With Disabilities.

School reports it is taking steps to ensure it meets with students with disabilities to develop personal emergency action plans and to document those plans.

Table of Contents

Overview

Although the UMass Amherst Office of Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) provided evidence of fire drills and fire-alarm and sprinkler-system tests, it could not provide evidence that it had developed personal emergency action plans for students with disabilities living in its residence halls and had discussed the plans with these students. A lack of personal emergency action plans could put student safety at increased risk during emergencies.

Authoritative Guidance

The UMass Amherst Residential Life Community Standards detail the need for emergency plans and state,

Emergency plans must be designed to meet the needs of the individual. At the beginning of every semester, staff members from the Office of Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) . . . will meet on site with each identified disabled student to review fire safety, fire protection, special needs, and personal emergency action plans.

To ensure that all students with disabilities are provided with effective personal emergency action plans, UMass Amherst should document in each student’s file the student’s personal emergency action plan as well as information on when and by whom it was discussed with the student.

In addition, although the university is not required to follow the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Emergency Evacuation Planning Guide for People with Disabilities, it could use the guide as a best practice to design personal emergency action plans. The document provides guidance on five different categories of disability: mobility impairments, speech impairments, visual impairments, hearing impairments, and cognitive impairments. It includes a personal emergency evacuation checklist that can be used to design a personal emergency action plan.

Reasons for Noncompliance

EH&S officials could not provide a reason that they had not documented the personal emergency action plans in question; however, they stated that university staff members do meet with all identified students with disabilities living in residence halls to discuss personal emergency action plans.

Recommendations

  1. UMass Amherst should ensure that it documents each student’s personal emergency action plan in the student’s file, along with information on who discussed the plan with the student and when.
  2. UMass Amherst should consider using the NFPA planning guide to develop an emergency evacuation planning checklist for use during meetings with students.

Auditee’s Response

The Office of Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) agrees with the findings that it has not always documented that the meetings took place between the EH&S Fire Safety Officers and . . . identified students with disabilities living in the residence halls. On an interim basis EH&S Fire Safety Officers were instructed to document the meetings in their weekly reports. Currently EH&S is in the process of developing a checklist based on best practices including the NFPA planning guide that will be used when an EH&S Fire Safety Officer meets with an interested student. This will ensure that the meetings are documented and we expect to implement this process in the fall [2018] semester.

Auditor’s Reply

Based on its response, UMass Amherst is taking steps to address our concerns in this area.

Date published: October 29, 2018
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