Emergency Evacuation Options
Contents of this chapter
- Determine and Prioritize All Your Evacuation Options
- Being Carried
- Use of Evacuation Chairs
- Area of Refuge/Rescue Assistance
- Sprinklered Buildings
- Use of Elevators
- Determine Your Evacuation Options When Traveling
- Create an Emergency Plan for Your Home
Use your judgment given your specific situation and the information you have available during an emergency.
For example, you don't have specific information regarding the emergency. Most people are evacuating the building. It is 20 degrees Fahrenheit / -.6 Centigrade outside, a temperature that would place you in immediate danger given your specific disability (given your zero tolerance for cold). You choose to stay indoors until you see that it is critical that you leave.
You have the right to make your own decisions about your life-safety. If you will need evacuation assistance, you have to carefully think through all your options in terms of your plan. All options have pros and cons:
|You have a chance to GET OUT||You and/or your helpers may be injured in the process|
These are fold up chairs, which can be stored near emergency exits and allow for people to be moved up or down stairs; see References and Resources.
|Given current expanding disaster possibilities, quick evacuation is critical.||Takes practice to safely use.|
|With assistance you have a good chance of getting out.||People who have not practiced using the device may cause you or themselves injury.|
You don't have to wait for the fire department to
(1) find you
(2) help you evacuate
- Fire-resistant spaces where people unable to use stairs can call for help by way of two-way communication devices, and await evacuation assistance from emergency personnel.
- Must meet specifications for fire resistance and ventilation.
- Often incorporated into the design of fire stair landings, but can be provided in other recognized locations meeting design specifications, including those for fire and smoke protection.
- Americans with Disabilities Act Access Guidelines require areas of rescue assistance in new buildings only. Areas are not provided in buildings equipped with sprinkler systems that have built-in signals used to monitor the system's features.
|You may be injured if you evacuate using the stairs||Not available in many buildings|
|You may get help||You may not get help|
|You may be overcome by smoke before getting help from rescue personnel|
Even in buildings equipped with sprinkler systems it is recommended that areas of refuge be provided. There is the small possibility that the sprinkler system will fail to extinguish the fire and that there would be heavy smoke. It is quite possible that you could be stranded and overcome with smoke before the arrival of the rescue personnel, given the difficulty in locating someone in a smoke filled building. For these possibilities, there needs to be contingency plans for providing evacuation assistance for all occupants, as well as those needing specific assistance. (FEMA 2001)
If you are in an older building that does not have these designated areas, consider designating some areas by consulting with the fire department. These areas should have:
- An operating phone, cell phone and two way radio so that emergency services at the site, and the fire department, can be contacted
- A closing door
- Supplies that enable individuals to block smoke from entering the room from under the door
- A window
- A large pre-printed sign which can be taped to the window requesting help
- Respirator masks
- Fire only
- Evacuation limited to area under immediate threat
|Systems are said to be 95 percent reliable||Not available in many buildings|
|Small possibility system will fail to extinguish fire|
|There may be heavy smoke|
|You may still have to evacuate|
A study of areas of refuge conducted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) for the General Services Administration (GSA), found that the operation of a properly designed and maintained sprinkler system eliminates the life threat to building occupants regardless of their individual abilities and can provide superior protection for people with disabilities. Sprinkler systems will, in most circumstances, provide the protection to permit evacuation that is limited to the area under immediate threat from the fire (horizontal exits versus total evacuation from the building). Horizontal exits, which use fire barriers, separation, and other means to help contain the spread of fire on a floor, can substitute for areas of rescue assistance (see above) provided they meet applicable building codes. Horizontal exits enable occupants to evacuate from one area of a building to another area or building on approximately the same level. They provide protection from smoke and fire.(FEMA 2001)
|Could be useful in non-fire emergencies.||Shut down during fire emergencies.|
|Newer fire-safe evacuation elevators improve evacuation times by as much as 50%.||Elevator shaft can become a chimney for smoke.|
|Power can go out, leaving the elevator stuck between floors.|
|Newer fire-safe evacuation elevators not available at most sites.|
The fire department can operate elevators with a special key and may use them to move their people and equipment, or for evacuation of occupants. This means that without the fire department, persons with disabilities and other activity limitations are forced to use the stairs or must await rescue.
Newer "evacuation elevators" are designed to remain in use during emergencies. They have a back-up power supply and pressurization and ventilation systems to prevent smoke and heat build-up. They are fire rated to withstand the heat and smoke and come equipped with a firefighter's key, which allows emergency workers to load their equipment in the elevator and ascend to the upper floors. Smoke systems are built in to alert officials when the elevator becomes dangerous to use. In a study conducted for GSA, NIST found that the use of both elevators and stairs can improve evacuation times by as much as 50% over stairs alone. (FEMA 2001)
When staying in hotels/motels/cruise ships and other lodging facilities:
- When you have a choice, do you think about whether you want the view or the safety of a lower floor? If you have difficulty using stairs, do you ask for a guest room on a lower floor? Do you identify yourself to registration staff as a person who will need assistance in an emergency and state the type of assistance you may need?
- If you have a significant hearing loss, do you ask for a room equipped with visual alarms that are connected to the fire alarm system, and other notification devices (for doors and telephones)? These devices alert guests by way of blinking and strobe lights to fire alarms, telephone calls and to persons knocking on the door and/or ringing the doorbell. While visual alarms must be connected to the fire alarm system, other notification devices (for doors and telephones) may be provided in kits available at the lodging facility's registration desk.
- Do you check exit routes on the back of guest room doors and familiarize yourself with the exits (by tracking the escape route, noting the number of doors between your room and the emergency exit)? Maps may be confusing unless you check them out.
Have a disaster or fire plan at your home. While high rise buildings have built in technology and safety features, houses or apartment buildings are often less safe. People are more likely to die in a fire at home than at work, and that risk is even greater for people with disabilities, said Brian Black, director of building codes and standards for Eastern Paralyzed Veterans Association. (Bondi 2001) In addition to basic fire safety guidelines such as installing smoke alarms and changing the batteries regularly, make sure you have more than one way to exit your homes and a planned meeting place for family members during an emergency. For more information on home safety see Resources and References.