Emergency Evacuation for Persons with Disabilities

NOTE: The person with the disability is the best authority on how to be moved.

On a ground-level floor, persons with physical disabilities should evacuate via accessible exits along with the other occupants of the building. On above or below-ground floors:

Visual Impairments

Most persons with visual impairments will be familiar with their immediate surroundings. In the event of an emergency, tell the person with a visual impairment the nature of the emergency and offer to guide the person to the nearest emergency exit. Have the person take your elbow and escort him or her out of the building. As you walk, tell the person where you are and advise him or her of any obstacles. When you reach safety, orient the person to where he or she is and ask if any further assistance is needed.

Hearing Impairments

Some persons with hearing impairments may not perceive audio emergency alarms and will need to be alerted to the situation by gestures or by turning the light switch off and on. Emergency instructions can be given by verbalizing, mouthing, or by a short, explicit note. Example: Fire alarm go out south doors now!

It is appropriate to assist a hearing-impaired person as you leave the building.

Mobility Impairments

Since elevators should not be used for evacuation during a fire alarm, persons with mobility impairments may need assistance in evacuating unless they are on the ground floor with accessible exits. As persons with mobility impairments have varying degrees of limitations, information is offered for two possible scenarios: ambulatory and non-ambulatory impairments.

Ambulatory Mobility Impairments

Persons with mobility impairments who are able to walk independently, either with or without the use of crutches or a cane, may be able to negotiate stairs with minor assistance in an emergency. Even some persons who customarily use a wheelchair or scooter for long distance travel may be able to walk independently in an emergency. If individuals are able to walk up or down stairs, it is advisable that they until the heavy traffic has cleared before attempting to evacuate. Someone should walk beside the person to provide assistance in exiting the building, if needed.

Non-Ambulatory Mobility Impairments

In keeping with current philosophy and preference to stay in place, the most recent advice from fire and campus safety experts is that wheelchair users should exit the building on their own if they can do so. If they encounter stairs or otherwise cannot exit the building on their own, wheelchair users should move to and remain at a designated area of rescue assistance until emergency rescue personnel arrive. A specific person should be designated to inform emergency personnel of the disabled persons location. If rescue is deemed necessary, qualified personnel will assist in the evacuation.

(Adapted from Bowling Green State University, Environmental Health and Safety, University Police, and Disability Services)