Are you educated in safe emergency evacuation?

The introduction of the Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order 2005 & The Equality Act 2010 requires that employers or organisations providing services to the public, take responsibility for all people, including disabled people evacuating buildings safely. When an employer or a service provider does not make provisions for the safe evacuation of disabled people from its premises, this may be viewed as discrimination.

It is a general requirement that emergency procedures are preplanned and that planning should have regard to the needs of all occupants. It is therefore essential to identify the needs of disabled people and, where necessary, to make proper arrangements for their assistance in the event of an emergency evacuation.

Universities should encourage disabled staff and students to make themselves known. This is to enable their safety during an emergency procedure is given the highest priority. This declaration should be encouraged at registration for students and final interview stage for staff. This is especially important in situations where there is sleeping arrangements e.g. halls of residence.

The fire risk assessment process makes it quite clear that any change in risk to life from fire should be reflected with appropriate measures taken to offset any risks identified. Allowing disabled persons into the building by means of lifts or other powered systems without providing for suitable means of egress is increasing the life risk, quite possibly to an unacceptable level.

The Fire Service is not responsible for the evacuation of anyone, even the disabled - it is the employer’s duty. The Fire Service has a duty to rescue people. The term “rescue” infers that someone must be in a life-threatening situation requiring the immediate intervention by the fire brigade.

A differently able or mobility impaired person positioned in a refuge, for example, isn’t someone whom requires rescue, they are certainly not in a life threatening situation, unless of course somehow the fire has spread into the refuge area which would be extremely rare. However the employer should have in place suitable procedures to safely evacuate this person from the refuge in an emergency situation.

So therefore, if access is given to areas within the property then clearly egress arrangements must also be put in place to ensure the safe evacuation of disabled persons from the property.

As we cannot use the lift for the purpose of fire evacuation, we must utilize the stairway. In order to protect staff, pupils and others during the evacuation, it is required that a fire protected stairway is used. This stairway will be enclosed with fire resisting construction and will lead directly to a final exit, but in many circumstances this causes a problem for the mobility impaired, how will they negotiate the stairs in an emergency situation? The best solution is an evacuation chair, and the Evac+Chair, the world’s number one supplier of evacuation chairs provide a range of universal solutions for smooth stairway descent in an emergency evacuation, suitable for dual and multiple level buildings of any height.

*An Independent study conducted at Ghent University Hospital by trained staff to evacuate people with mobility issues down 11 floors. The Evac+Chair was the fastest in horizontal evacuation at 1.5m/s and in vertical movement the evacuation chair was also fastest averaging 0.83m/s. The study highlighted the Evac+Chair as the only device that required no stopping by the operator as fatigue did not affect the operator. The Evac+Chair also performed best in the area of not blocking the stair as it only covers one lane and the fact it only requires one person to operate, with very minimal difference in speed of evacuation when using the Evac+Chair if the operator is male or female. The study concluded the Evac+Chair is the best and only option to evacuate people down stairs with mobility issues, it is the fastest, easiest, least blocking, any gender can operate and only requires a single person to operate unlike any other evacuation method.

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