EARTHQUAKE CONSIDERATIONS FOR SPECIAL
A GUIDEBOOK FOR ARKANSAS SCHOOLS
One of the segments of the school population that has been
left out of the written school guidelines for earthquake
preparedness has been those students with special needs.
Students with diabetes, hypertension or any of the maladies
that require special diets, daily periodic medications or
special equipment and supplies in order to sustain life,
activities, dignity or reasonable comfort have not been given
adequate considerations in planning for disasters that cause
isolation. What could be a mere inconvenience for able bodied
students could become a major threat to the students who have
It is the objective of this appendix to provide major
considerations that students with special needs should have
in earthquake preparedness, response and recovery planning.
In some cases, such considerations could mean the difference
between life and death, during and after, an earthquake.
Although some of the following considerations have been
provided in Sections 1, 3, 5 and
6, it is felt that by providing
all consideratiorns in this appendix it will emphasize their
importance and at the same time provide a document that
concentrates them for the review of school emergency
planners, rather than their having to review the total
"Guidebook" in order to access them.
BEFORE THE EARTHQUAKE
- Evacuation plans must provide for problems involved in
students with mobility, visual and hearing impairments.
Special evacuation transportation provisions may be
necessary - both from the school building to the assembly
area(s) and away from the school area. And plans must
also address assistance that will be provided to mentally
retarded students during and after the earthquake.
- Special needs students should have a back-up supply of
vital medication, equipment or supplies with them, at
school or enroute. Those students or their teachers
should be prepared to bring the extra medication or
supplies if evacuation from the school premises is
- Parents or guardians of these students should be
consulted concerning care considerations if the student
is isolated at school for both a short term or long term
- These students should have in their possession an
individual emergency card describing their special needs.
The cards should list information such as; disability,
medications and their application frequencies, mobility
constraints, attendant needs, allergies, primary
- Any power requirements for special sustaining equipment,
if normal power is off for a long period of time, should
- Assignments must be made to a staff member or a special
team along with training for managing the special needs
of these students.
- Allow for individual self sufficiency of these students
as much as possible by getting them involved in
preparedness and response activities. Include in response
planning obvious ways in which special needs students can
assist others in response to disastrous conditions -
include them in your drill. As an example, in the dark
(due to power loss and no outside light), sighted people
could depend on the blind students to navigate through
debris laden evacuation routes. Blind people are
experienced at being placed in new, unfamiliar
environments and finding their way. Many of the special
needs students can learn and administer first aid.
- Also communicate preparedness and response information
and instructions (according to need) to these students
with braille, audio cassette, visual aids, large print,
etc. Don't let them out of the process.
- Alarm systems for fire, etc. will benefit most people if
they incorporate both audible and visual elements. The
hearing impaired and deaf students would be best alerted
by flashing light alarms.
- Emergency back-up lighting systems, especially in
stairwells and other dark areas would benefit those
students with limited visual acuity.
- Students with hypertension, dyslexia or learning
disabilities will have difficulty reading complicated
directions for evacuation or response plans. Simple
diagrams or pictures will give non-reading or
overstressed students sufficient information to get to
- Hearing impaired students should practice some basic hand
signals with the teachers and other students for
- Mobility impaired students should practice moving their
wheel chairs or having them move into doorways (or other
designated safe area), locking their wheels and covering
their heads with a book or with their arms or hands.
- Partnerships should be established between the able
bodied and special needs students. The able bodied
partners should be prepared (and practice during drills)
to assist the special need student.
- Rescue teams should be made aware of the best way to
rescue special needs students. As an example, mobility
impaired students should be allowed to instruct rescue
team members on the best way to move them from the
hazardous area. The fireman's carry may be dangerous to
someone with respiratory problems.
- Special response provisions may have to be made for
ensuring duck and cover protection for these students.
Barriers to earthquake safety are highly individual for
them and accommodation plans may have to fit the
requirements. The guidance provided by this document
should be modified to fit each special situation of each
special needs student. NOTE: ANY SPECIAL RESPONSE
PROCEDURE MUST BE TESTED DURING EARTHQUAKE DRILLS.
- Visually impaired or blind students should have an extra
cane at school even if they have a seeing eye dog. They
should be informed of alternate evacuation routes.
DURING THE EARTHQUAKE
- Special needs students or able bodied partners should
implement special duck and cover actions. An example;
mobility impaired students should know how (through
practice) to get in doorways, lock wheel chair wheels and
cover head with book, arms or hands.
AFTER THE EARTHQUAKE
- Hearing impaired or deaf students need face to face
contact in order to read lips. Writing on a note pad is
only practical if there is enough light to see.
- During evacuation from classroom, sight impaired or blind
students need to be informed about obstacles that may be
in their paths and require verbal or physical guidance
through hazardous areas.
- In total darkness, sight impaired or blind students may
be more capable of guiding sighted students and staff.
- For mobility impaired students, evacuation by themselves
may be extremely difficult or impossible because of
obstacles in their paths or because electric dependant
machines are not functioning (i.e., elevator). Special
preplanned assistance must be provided.
- Any special medications, supplies and equipment for the
special needs students must be transported with them
- If evacuation from school area is called for, utilize
special transportation arrangements.
- If special needs students, for some reason, become
separated from school authorities during evacuation, they
should inform other authorities of their special needs as
soon as possible so that proper considerations can be
- Re-establish special power requirements for the equipment
of special needs students as soon as possible.
- Rescue of special needs students should be accomplished
utilizing special techniques as practiced.
School Earthquake Preparedness Guide - State of
Arkansas Office of
Emergency Services, 1993