Evacuating Persons with Disabilities

Do you have a plan to make sure people with disabilities are helped during an emergency? If you are putting together an evacuation plan or in the market for equipment to assist in evacuating people from your building, the following information may help guide you. Review this checklist of information for evacuating people with disabilities. The information available from the Occupational Safety & Health Administration's website is a guide for creating an emergency plan.

Special Equipment for Emergency Evacuation for Persons with Disabilities
According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, persons with disabilities must be provided with the same level of safety as the rest of society. As well as a general evacuation plan, equipment and procedures exist that can provide safety for any person with a disability who may be employed in, or visiting your building. 

The underlying principle in providing safety from fire and smoke in buildings is safe egress – the efficient relocation of building occupants to an area of safety. Special considerations are required in the case of persons with mobility disabilities. People using wheelchairs or with other obvious mobility disabilities come immediately to mind; but, there are many who may not appear to have a disability who will also require some special assistance.

Permanent conditions such as arthritis or temporary conditions such as a sprained ankle or a broken leg can limit one’s ability to evacuate quickly and safely. Heart disease, emphysema, asthma or pregnancy can reduce stamina to the point of needing assistance when moving down many flights of stairs.

Evacuation Chairs
There are several types of evacuation chairs designed to accommodate wheelchair users in evacuating buildings by way of the stairways. These chairs fold for storage at the top of the stairwell and can accommodate persons up to 500 pounds. More information is availabble from the Stryker Evacuation Chair website.

In the case of persons with respiratory disorders, such as asthma or emphysema, the onset of symptoms can be triggered by stress, exertion, or exposure to small amounts of dust or smoke. In larger buildings, emergency evacuation my involve relocation to a safe area within the building, or sequencing evacuation by floor or area so as not to overload the stairways. It may be advisable to have individual face mask type respirators available for use in emergencies. 

Changes in level up to 1/4 inch may be vertical without edge treatment. Changes in level between 1/4 inch and 1/2 inch shall be beveled  with a slope no greater than 1:2 (ramp needs to have 2" of length for each 1" of rise). Changes greater than 1/2 inch shall be ramped with a slope no greater than 1:12 (ramp needs to have 12" of length for each 1" of rise) and the cross slope shall not exceed 1:20. "Handi-Ramp" and "American Ramp" are two resources.

The information provided here is general information about four different brands of evacuation chairs and respirators. It is provided for your information in investigating what is available for your particular situation, and is not intended to be a recommendation from the Office of State Courts Administrator for these particular manufacturers.

For additional information about this and other emergency equipment please visit the Job Accommodation Network's Searchable Online Accommodation Resource (SOAR).