When developing a fire safety evacuation plan for your business, you need to take into account how everyone can get out of the building safely and quickly – especially those who are elderly, have a physical or learning disability, sight or hearing impairment.
Guidance about how to keep people with a range of disabilities safe from fire is written about in various fire safety guidelines and legislation. But it can be very easily misunderstood or implemented incorrectly by businesses who either employ disabled people, or whose buildings are used by those with disabilities.
Putting extra thought into how you will help the most vulnerable people you employ, or who utilise the space you manage, can save a lot of distress, anxiety and ultimately lives.
In 99 per cent 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 alarm being raised and stay immobile after this.
It’s also impractical, unsafe and undignified to lift wheelchair users down the stairs because modern wheelchairs are heavy and not made to lifted with an occupant. You also cannot guarantee you will have four strong people on hand to help you do this in an emergency!
Disabled refuges are also widely misused. People with disabilities should never just be left in the stairwell for the Fire and Rescue services to manage when they arrive. Your obligation is ensure you help everyone, whatever their ability, to a safe place away from the building.
Disabled refuges are a protected corridor or stairwell which allows you time to manage the safe evacuation of anyone with a disability, or who may be hurt or injured. For example, modern buildings often have a refuge system which allows you to communicate with the ground floor to let the person in charge of your evacuation know where you are and what you are doing to get people out safely.
Refuge chairs are designed to go down stairs (even up them from basements) and are easy for one person to use, although you should have other there to help if possible. If you have disabled colleagues, you should plan how you would do this in advance and included the information in your Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan (PEEP). This document details what will happen in the event of a fire or serious incident, reassuring colleagues they will be led to safety whatever their ability or disability.
If you have members of the public in your property, then a General Emergency Evacuation Plan (GEEP) will let your staff know how to deal with evacuating someone from all floors of the building.
If you are still unsure about whether your fire safety provisions for disabled employees or members of the public are up to scratch, contact Matt at Synergy Fire Engineering on (0)843 658 1310 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.