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It is not acceptable to expect the fire service to evacuate people from a refuge area

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It is not acceptable to expect the fire service to evacuate people from a refuge area, it is your responsibility.

One university and I am sure they are not alone expect the fire service to rescue disabled people from Refuge Areas and as you will see this is not acceptable. We put this to Elspeth Grant whose reply was “I’ve had a look down your comments to the university and you are correct in that their evacuation policy does not meet the RRO. If the FRS is agreeing to this you are also correct in that the most important thing for them is to get this confirmation in writing (signed by an identifiable officer) that their approach meets the RRO and that in the event of a death on their premises that there would not be a risk of prosecution if they follow the FRS advice. I would also advise them to copy their letter to the relevant Chief Fire Officer.”

Building regulations recognise the need to have buildings that are accessible and user-friendly to all who may use them, including disabled people.

The Equality Act ensures equality and access to buildings for disabled people within reason. The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRO) makes the responsible person take account of the evacuation plans of everyone in a building, including disabled people.

In 2007, the Government produced supplementary guidance to go with the suite of guidance documents already produced at that time for the RRO. ‘Means of Escape for Disabled People’.

‘The Fire and Rescue Service’s role in fire evacuation is that of ensuring that the means of escape in case of fire and associated fire safety measures provided for all people who may be in a building are both adequate and reasonable, taking into account the circumstances of each particular case. Under current fire safety legislation it is the responsibility of the person(s) having responsibility for the building to provide a fire safety risk assessment that includes an emergency evacuation plan for all people likely to be in the premises, including disabled people, and how that plan will be implemented. Such an evacuation plan should not rely upon the intervention of the Fire and Rescue Service to make it work. In the case of multi-occupancy buildings, responsibility may rest with a number of persons for each occupying organisation and with the owners of the building. It is important that they co-operate and co-ordinate evacuation plans with each other. This could present a particular problem in multi-occupancy buildings when the different escape plans and strategies need to be co-ordinated from a central point.

Where an employer or a service provider does not make provision for the safe evacuation of disabled people from its premises, this may be viewed as discrimination. It may also constitute a failure to comply with the requirements of the fire safety legislation mentioned above.’

What if the fire service is called elsewhere and can’t attend quickly, would you wait?

Is it right that universities should have totally different views on what is acceptable in the evacuation of disabled people, as it is very clear from the above that you need to have the correct plans and equipment in place so that you can evacuate people with disabilities in a dignified manner? Don’t make a wheelchair user transfer from their wheelchair when the correct equipment will take them and their wheelchair up and down stairs. A wheelchair can take months to build and you want them to leave it in a burning building! Whose insurance covers that?

The guide dog is a "mobility aid" that can enable people who are blind or have low vision to travel safely. Would you make a person leave their guide dog in an evacuation? If the answer is no then why leave a wheelchair?

Is a university accessible when they can get people in but not out? This also applies to lift breakdowns. Evacuation and accessibility should be looked at together as they are linked and you can’t have one without the other.

Swallow EMP's powered products enable access and egress on a daily basis as well as emergency.

The largest range to cover different stairs, landings and people’s needs. We are not all the same!

Consider fairly the means of escape for disabled people, don’t base it on cost.