The Law on Evacuating Disabled People is Strict – Are You Compliant?

Are your Provisions for disabled people adequate?
The issue of provisions for disabled people are clearly written in various legislation including fire safety, but seem to be greatly misunderstood by end users in buildings where they either have disabled staff, or allow members of public who may be disabled onto their premises.

Did you know…

In 99% of cases you cannot use the lift in the event of a fire. Most modern buildings have the lift programmed to drop to the ground floor on the fire alarm being raised, and to stay open and not function after this.

You cannot just say you can lift them down the stairs in their chairs. Modern wheel chairs are heavy, not made to be lifted down stairs with an occupant in (who may even fall out) and you certainly can't guarantee there'll be 4 strapping young lads just hanging about to help!

You cannot just abandon disabled people in your 'disabled refuge'! This is the most important misunderstood point and if I had a pound for every time I've read a fire safety policy that states "wheel disabled residents into the stairwell and leave them to be rescued by the Fire & Rescue Services" I'd be a rich man.

Your obligation is to remove everyone to a place of total safety, which essentially means away from the building. Disabled refuges are there to give you time to do this – usually consisting of a protected corridor or stairwell that allows you time to manage their safe evacuation.

Modern buildings may have a refuge system that allows you to communicate with the ground floor to let the person in charge of your evacuation know that you are there and what you are doing. Refuge chairs are designed to go downstairs (or even upstairs from a basement) and are suitable and easy for one person to use (although ideally you would have another person there to assist).

Evacuation of disabled persons needs to be carefully pre-planned.

Where you have a member of staff with a disability this will be covered in a PEEP (Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan) which details what will happen in the event of a fire and help reassure the member of staff that they are not just going to be left in a burning building waiting for someone else to rescue them.

Where you have members of the public on your property, then a GEEP (General Emergency Evacuation Plan) will let your staff know how to deal with evacuating someone from the building and will need to cover evacuation from all floors.

Are your disabled staff and/or visitors adequately protected from risk in the event of a fire? For advice and information on Fire Training (Including Evacuation Chair Training), Risk Assessments, Project Management and Consultancy contact us on [email protected] or Tel: 0843 658 1310.