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Fire evacuation for disabled people

This guidance is to assist staff, students and visitors who are disabled, or could be responsible for, or involved with, a disabled person in the event of a fire evacuation.

It is of particular relevance to persons who use wheelchairs or who have impaired mobility. It is also of relevance to any person who has a disability which is less obvious, eg heart problems, arthritis etc, and also those who have poor sight or hearing.

Safe areas

Within University buildings there are areas, such as stairwells, which are protected from fire for a minimum of 30 minutes. On reaching such a location a person is safe from the danger of fire for sufficient time for them to be evacuated from a building, should this be required.

Within the University these areas have been identified and are called ‘Safe Areas’, with their locations identified by a green and white sign with a wheelchair symbol. A Safe Area can also be referred to as a ‘Refuge Point for Disabled People’.

Any person who may require to use a Safe Area during a fire alarm activation should make themselves familiar with their location in advance. Details on the location of Safe Areas may be obtained from the Health and Safety Office (link).

Students who have declared mobility problems with Student Services will be given details of the Safe Areas from a Student Adviser (Disabilities).

Evacuation of disabled people

The problems encountered by disabled people evacuating a building in the event of a fire will vary with the disability of the individual and the physical configuration of the building. Whatever the parameters of each individual case, in the event of a fire alarm sounding a disabled person should try to leave the building.

Lifts must not be used in the event of a fire evacuation.

If a member of staff or student considers that they will encounter difficulty evacuating a building, it is important that they make their line manager or Course Tutor and student accommodation Sub-Warden familiar with their difficulty, to ensure that they are assisted in the event of an evacuation and that the following is understood.

Impaired mobility

If it is not possible for a disabled person to leave a building, they should go to a Safe Area and arrange for someone to inform the person in charge of the evacuation (from either the University or Fire Brigade) of their location to ensure that, should it be necessary, they are evacuated.

A friend/colleague can stay with a disabled person in the Safe Area.

Impaired vision

Any person who is visually impaired should familiarise themselves with escape routes, especially fire exits which are not in general daily use. Where possible, a sighted person should accompany the individual along the escape route to the assembly car park, so that they may be warned of any hazards and reassured during the evacuation.

Impaired hearing

If a person is hearing impaired they may experience difficulty in hearing the fire alarm. However, some people may have sufficient perception of certain types of audible alarm signals to require no additional provision. It is important for anyone who has difficulty in hearing the fire alarm to set in place a system for colleagues to alert them when the fire alarm is sounding.

Lone working

If a situation arises which requires a member of staff or student with a disability that may impair their ability to respond to the fire alarm to work alone, then the individual must ensure that they notify University Security on internal extension 2086 (or 01642 342086 from a mobile or external telephone) of their location. Steps can then be taken to ensure their evacuation in case of a fire. If Security are informed of lone working, it is essential that they are informed upon its conclusion.

Additional information

Staff who are made aware of colleagues, students or visitors with disabilities should ensure that they are assisted to evacuate the building or be moved to a Safe Area when the fire alarm sounds.

Anyone with specific needs, or who has concerns relating to a visitor, or a colleague or student with specific needs and wishes to discuss any problems with regard to evacuation in the event of a fire should contact either the University Heath and Safety Office, their Course Tutor, their School Disability Co-ordinator, or a Student Adviser (Disabilities) within the Department of Student Services as appropriate.