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12. Emergency Evacuation Procedures for Persons with Disabilities

Every individual must accept personal responsibility for getting out of a building during an emergency. Even though emergency personnel are usually available to assist with evacuation, this may not always be the case. Alternative plans and arrangements made in advance of an emergency will increase the likelihood that individuals will be able to exit a building safely in the event of an emergency. This is even more critical to the safety of those individuals with mobility impairments because the use of elevators during emergencies is dangerous and should be avoided. Thus, individuals will need to use alternative methods of leaving a building. Because of constantly changing populations and building occupancy patterns, it is not possible for the college to make reliable arrangements for the evacuation of specific individuals from the many buildings they may occupy in the course of a week. In the absence of this ability, the following suggestions are advised for individuals to increase the chances of their safe evacuation from a building in an emergency situation.

Individuals who have mobility impairments or use a wheelchair  

  • Relocate the student to the nearest safe stairwell exit.  Be sure that the student is not situated in a way to impede the evacuation of those using the stairs.
  • The stairwells are fire-rated. Therefore, doors leading to the stairway at each floor should be closed.
  • Request that a student, staff or faculty member notify emergency personnel of your location.
  • Remain with the student until emergency personnel arrive to assist with evacuation.
  • Due to medical ramifications, it is not recommended that individuals be removed from wheelchairs and carried without the appropriate training.  Emergency personnel are trained in specific carrying techniques and will assess the situation upon arrival.  

If immediate evacuation is necessary, ask the person if she/he wants to be lifted from the chair and carried out or moved in the chair as a unit.  Preferences vary as to: 

  • Ability to be physically removed from the wheelchair. Inquire about physical ramifications of being removed from the wheelchair.
  • Ability to extend or move their extremities when lifting due to pain, catheter, and leg bags, spasticity, braces, respirators, etc.
  • The number of people necessary to assist.
  • Points on the wheelchair where the rescue person should hold onto for lifting.
  • Whether the seat cushion or pad should be brought along with them if removed from the chair.
  • Best position for being carried.
  • How to proceed with after-care if removed from the wheelchair, which may require paramedic involvement.

Below is a list of approved procedures for evacuation of wheelchair users who desire to be evacuated in their wheelchair 

  • If a power chair is involved, remove the batteries before attempting to push or lift the unit.  Make sure the footrest is locked and the motor is off.
  • Before movement or transportation begins, ask the person if a seatbelt is available to secure him or her to the chair.
  • Two-person carry is better than one person; a three-person carry is best.
  • Three-person carry utilizing one person at the head to guide or steer the chair and two persons at the base (foot) to control speed of descent is the recommended manner for evacuation.

Persons Otherwise Not Ambulatory 

Persons using braces, crutches, canes or walkers should be treated as injured for evacuation procedures.  Lifting options include the following:

  • Two-man lock arm position.
  • Transferring person to a sturdy office-type chair, preferably with arms.
  • If carrying a person more than three flights, a relay team arrangement.  

Types of evacuation methods to be used for an individual who is non-ambulatory or requires removal from his/her wheelchair: 

  • Two-person carry:  Assistants stand facing each other and link arms to form a backrest and grip wrists to form a seat. 
  • Saddleback carry:  Individual with a disability should place both arms over shoulders and grasp hands just below assistant’s neck.  Assistant should lean forward to carry the weight.
  • One assistant should stand behind the individual and wrap his/her arms around the chest and under the arms of the individual needing assistance.  The other assistant should stand facing away from the individual requiring assistance and between his/her legs and lift at the knees.

Individuals who are vision impaired 

Offer to become a sighted guide 

  • Ask if he/she would like help and respect his/her wish to decline or accept your offer.
  • If your help is accepted, offer the person your arm by tapping the back of your hand against his/her hand.  The person should grab your arm directly above the elbow.  Never grab the person’s arm or try to direct him/her by pushing or pulling.
  • Relax and walk at a comfortable pace.  Stay one step ahead of the person you are guiding.  At the top and bottom of stairs and at cross streets, pause and stand alongside the person.  Always pause when you change directions and step up or down.
  • It is helpful to tell the person you are guiding when he/she is approaching changes in terrain, stairs, narrow spaces, elevators, escalators, etc.
  • Never leave the person in “free space”.  When walking, always be sure that person has a firm grasp on your arm.
  • Make modifications as necessary due to other disabilities or requests.  If you have to be separated briefly, be sure the person is in contact with the wall, railing, or some other stable object until you return.


Individuals who are hearing impaired  

  • Get person’s attention by switching the light on and off, tapping him/her on the shoulder, etc.
  • If the nature of the emergency cannot be communicated nonverbally, write down the nature of the emergency and the nearest evacuation route
  • Offer to escort the person as he/she may not be able to follow oral commands if they are being given.