Guidelines for People With Disabilities in Emergencies
Persons with disabilities should prepare for an emergency situation beforehand and should be familiar with your needs during an evacuation. You are encouraged to convey these needs to your instructor at the beginning of each semester. While attending class, try to position yourself near a doorway for an easier exit. Become familiar with the building and its exits.
The following guidelines are important to follow:
- Establish a buddy system and alternate for each class.
- People with disabilities should prepare for an emergency ahead of time by instructing a classmate, instructor, supervisor, or co-worker on how to assist in the event of any emergency.
- If assistance is not immediately available, disabled people should remain near the stairwell landing or in the elevator lobby. Rescue personnel will first check all exit corridors and stairwells for those trapped. S/he should continue to call for help until rescued.
- People who cannot speak loudly, or with voice/speech impairments, should carry a whistle or have other means of attracting attention of others.
- Be familiar with alarm signals.
- Leave school materials in the room to avoid wasting time.
- Wait for rescue & remain calm.
- DO NOT re-enter a building until permitted by emergency personnel.
- Do NOT use elevators unless authorized to do so by police or fire personnel.
Evacuation for people with disabilities
Building marshals and volunteers should familiarize themselves with these procedures in order to assist in planning for the evacuation of people with physical and sensory disabilities.
- Evacuating a disabled or injured person by only one person with no assistance is a last resort.
- Check on people with special needs during an evacuation, determine if they have established a "buddy system," and ensure their safe evacuation.
- Always ask someone with a disability how you can help before attempting any rescue technique or giving assistance. Ask how he or she can best be assisted or moved, and whether there are any special considerations or items that need to come with the person.
- If the situation is life threatening, call 911.
- Do not use elevators, unless authorized to do so by police or fire personnel. Elevators could fail during a fire, earthquake or flood.
- Notify police or fire personnel immediately about any people remaining in the building and their locations.
- Most visually impaired persons will be familiar with the immediate area they are in and may have learned locations of exits and fire alarms in advance.
- Tell the person the nature of the emergency and offer to guide him/her by offering your left/right elbow (this is the preferred method when acting as a "Sighted Guide"). Do not grasp a visually impaired person‘s arm.
- Give verbal instructions to advise about the safest route or direction using compass directions, estimated distances, and directional terms or information (i.e., elevators cannot be used or if there is debris or a crowd).
- As you walk, tell the person where you are and advise of any obstacles, e.g. stairs, overhanging objects, uneven pavement, curbs, and narrow passageways.
- When you have reached the designated emergency assembly point, orientate the person to where he/she is and ask if any further assistance is needed.
- Some individuals may have dog guides that may be disoriented during the emergency, and may require additional assistance.
- White canes and other mobility aids should not be left behind.
- Most structures are not equipped with visual (flashing light) evacuation alarms and persons with impaired hearing may not perceive an emergency exists. An alternative warning technique is required. Two (2) methods of warning are:
- Write a note stating what the emergency is and what the evacuation route is (i.e. "Fire - go out the rear door to Parking Lot").
- Turn the room lights on and off to gain attention - then indicate through hand gestures or writing (i.e. on a blackboard) what is happening and where to go.
- Offer visual instructions to advise of safest route or directions by pointing toward exits or evacuation map.
- People who cannot speak loudly, or with voice/speech impairments, may be carrying a whistle or have other means of attracting attention of others.
- Mobility-impaired persons should not be evacuated by untrained personnel unless the situation is life-threatening. It may be necessary to help clear the exit route of debris (if possible) so that the person with a disability can move out or to a safer area.
- If people with mobility impairments cannot exit, they should move to a safer area, e.g., most enclosed stairwells, or an office with the door shut, which is a good distance from the hazard and away from falling debris in the case of earthquakes.
- Police or fire personnel will decide whether people are safe where they are and will evacuate them as necessary.
- If people are in immediate danger and cannot be moved to a safer area to wait for assistance, it may be necessary, only if you have had rescue training, to evacuate them using an evacuation chair or a carry technique. Carrying options include using a two-person lock-arm position, or having the person sit in a sturdy chair - preferably with arms. Before taking action, always ask the person their preferred method of assistance. Check with the Building Marshal for the availability of an evacuation chair if needed.