Fire Evacuation for Disabled People: Key Concerns for Business Owners

Posted on: 15 November 2017

Emergency egress can be a complex problem to solve in any building, and the situation can become significantly more complex when disability is a factor. Impaired hearing, sight and mobility can all create unique problems for safe evacuation; however, a brief consideration of the following information could make a significant improvement to your evacuation procedures.

Evacuating Visually Impaired People

Navigating any building can be difficult for a visually impaired person, even in ideal circumstances. In the event of a fire, visibility can be further affected by smoke and power outages. With this in mind, ensure that visibility is sufficient in low light levels, particularly on exterior routes such as stairs out of the building. Check the visibility of fire exit signs (which should be lit and visible through smoke), and install and test emergency lighting along all egress routes. Proper handrails on both sides of all staircases will also enable blind and visually impaired people to find their way out of the building by feel.

Evacuating Deaf and Hard of Hearing People

For deaf and hard of hearing individuals, auditory alarms are often insufficient warning in the event of an emergency. In this situation, alarms which are visual (flashing lights) or based on physical movement are preferred: as an example, deaf and hard of hearing individuals may use vibrating wrist bands or pillows at home or in hotels to ensure that they are safely alerted in the event of a fire.

Evacuating People with Mobility Impairments

For people with impaired mobility, ensuring that evacuation routes are free of clutter is an essential safety concern. When access corridors are seldom used, it can be tempting to use them as overflow storage areas; however, doing so greatly compromises safety and should be avoided at all costs. For wheelchair users in buildings with stairs, evacuation chairs are essential to provide and an inexpensive addition to any fire safety procedure. A more expensive provision which may be equally viable depending on budgeting concerns is a fire safe elevator; these can continue to operate in the event of a fire, and quickly and easily allow wheelchair users or people with other mobility impairments to reach safety. Finally, if you do have an employee or regular customer who is disabled, it is important to have a personal evacuation plan in place for them and to test this out in advance. Bear all of this information in mind and be sure to arrange for a fire safety inspection from a certified professional to better protect the safety of the people in your building.

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