Evacuation Policies for People with Disabilities

The following guidelines are intended to help evacuate people with physical disabilities. Evacuating a disabled or injured person yourself is the last resort. Consider your options and the risks of injuring yourself and others in an evacuation attempt. Do not make an emergency situation worse.

Evacuation is difficult and uncomfortable for both the rescuers and the people being assisted. Some people have conditions that can be aggravated or triggered if they are moved incorrectly. Remember that environmental conditions (smoke, debris, loss of electricity) will complicate evacuation efforts.

The following guidelines are general and may not apply in every circumstance.

  • Occupants should be invited to volunteer ahead of time to assist disabled people in an emergency. If a volunteer is not available, designate someone to assist who is willing to accept the responsibility.
  • Volunteers should obtain evacuation training for certain types of lifting techniques.
  • Two or more trained volunteers, if available, should conduct the evacuation.
  • DO NOT evacuate disabled people in their wheelchairs. This is standard practice to ensure the safety of disabled people and volunteers. Wheelchairs will be evacuated later if possible.
  • Always ASK someone with a disability how you can help BEFORE attempting any rescue technique or giving assistance. Ask how they can best be assisted or moved, and whether there are any special considerations or items that need to come with them.
  • Before attempting an evacuation, volunteers and the people being assisted should discuss how any lifting will be done and where they are going.
  • Proper lifting techniques (e.g. bending the knees, keeping the back straight, holding the person close before lifting, and using leg muscles to lift) should be used to avoid injury to rescuers' backs. Ask permission of the evacuee if an evacuation chair or similar device is being considered as an aid in an evacuation. When using such devices, make sure the person is secured properly. Be careful on stairs and rest at landings if necessary.
  • Certain lifts may need to be modified depending on the person's disabilities.
  • DO NOT use elevators, unless authorized to do so by police or fire personnel. Elevators could fail during a fire.
  • If the situation is life threatening, call University Police at 911 (from a campus phone) or 777-2393 (from any phone).
  • Check on people with special needs during an evacuation. A "buddy system", where people with disabilities arrange for volunteers (co-workers/ neighbors) to alert them and assist them in an emergency, is a good method.
  • Attempt a rescue evacuation ONLY if you have had rescue training or the person is in immediate danger and cannot wait for professional assistance.
  • If an outage occurs during the day and people with disabilities choose to wait in the building for electricity to be restored, they can move near a window where there is natural light and access to a working telephone. During regular building hours, Building Coordinators should be notified so they can advise emergency personnel.
  • If people would like to leave and an evacuation has been ordered, or if the outage occurs at night, call University Police at 911 (from a campus phone) or 777-2393 (from any phone) to request evacuation assistance from emergency personnel.
  • Some campus telephones may not operate in a power outage, but cellular telephones and pay telephones are likely to be operating.

Blindness or Visual Impairment

  • Give verbal instructions to advise about the safest route or direction using compass directions, estimated distances, and directional terms.
  • DO NOT grasp a visually impaired person's arm. Ask if he or she would like to hold onto your arm as you exit, especially if there is debris or a crowd.
  • Give other verbal instructions or information (i.e. elevators cannot be used).

Deafness or Hearing Loss

  • Get the attention of a person with a hearing disability by touch and eye contact. Clearly state the problem. Gestures and pointing are helpful, but be prepared to write a brief statement if the person does not seem to understand.
  • Offer visual instructions to advise of safest route or direction by pointing toward exits or evacuation maps.

Mobility Impairment

  • 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, an office with the door shut which is a good distance from the hazard, etc.)
  • If you do not know the safer areas in your building, call University Police at 911 (from a campus phone) or 777-2393 (from any phone).

Individuals unable to be evacuated

  • Notify emergency responders immediately about any people remaining in the building and their locations.
  • Police or fire personnel will decide whether people are safe where they are and will evacuate them as necessary. The Fire Department may determine that it is safe to override the rule against using elevators.
  • If people are in immediate danger and cannot be moved to a safer area to wait for assistance, it may be necessary to evacuate them using an evacuation chair or a carry technique.

Last Updated: 12/21/15