Assisting People with Disabilities to Evacuate

Guidelines for Evacuating People with Disabilities

Prior planning and practicing of emergency evacuation routes are important in assuring a safe evacuation. The following guidelines are presented to assist with the evacuation of people with physical disabilities.

General Guidelines

  • If you are a person (employee or student) with a disability who may need assistance during an crisis, it is strongly recommended to establish a system now that assures you get the help you need. Work with the Office of Students with Disabilities (University) or the Support Services unit (Clerc Center) to develop an individual plan for how you will handle various types of emergency situations.  If you need assistance and do not have a plan, it will be more difficult to assure your safety.
  • In any emergency situation, if an individual wants to help a person with a disability, always ASK how you can help BEFORE giving assistance. Ask how he or she can best be assisted or moved, and whether there are any special considerations or items that need to come with the person.
  • DO NOT use elevators, unless authorized to do so by a DPS officer, police or fire personnel. Never use elevators if there is fire or structural damage to the building.
  • If the situation is life-threatening, contact DPS at x5555 (Voice/Videophone), x5444 (TTY), page: dps@gallaudet.edu, or call 911.

While it is best to follow the individual's emergency plan, in the event of an imminent life-threatening situation, no one should hesitate to assist a person with a disability to evacuate a building, using whatever means possible.

Assisting People with Disabilities - Responses to Emergencies

  • People who are Mobility Impaired (those who use a wheelchair)
    When the alarm is activated, people using wheelchairs should either Stay in Place or move to a safe place and wait for assistance from your Floor Captain, a member of the DC Fire Department, or other trained emergency personnel.
    • Emergency personnel are trained to go to Areas of Refuge to assist people with disabilities. If the person with a disability is alone, he/she should contact DPS, x5444 (TTY) or x5555 (Voice/Videophone), page: dps@gallaudet.edu or call 911. He/she should give the present location or Area of Refuge to which he/she is going. Elevators can be used only if authorized by emergency personnel, but may never be used in the event of fire or structural damage.
  • People who are Mobility Impaired (those who do not use a wheelchair)
    People with mobility impairments who are able to walk independently may be able to negotiate stairs in an emergency with minor assistance. In an actual evacuation, these individuals may choose to wait until heavy traffic has cleared before attempting the stairs. If there is no imminent danger, the person with a disability may choose to stay in the building or move to an Area of Refuge until emergency personnel arrive. Elevators can be used only if authorized by emergency personnel, but may never be used in the event of fire or structural damage.
  • People who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing
    Most areas and rooms in University buildings are equipped with fire bells and strobe lights that simultaneously sound an alarm (auditory) and flash strobe lights (visual). Although this system is intended to alert deaf and hard of hearing individuals, they may not notice or hear emergency alarms and may need to be alerted to emergency situations.
  • People with a Sight Disability
    People with sight disabilities are generally familiar with their immediate surroundings and frequently traveled routes. Nonetheless, because the emergency evacuation route might be different from commonly traveled routes, people who have a sight disability should be assisted to exit the building.
  • People who are Deaf and Blind or Partially Sighted
    People who are deaf and blind or partially sighted will need to be alerted to emergency situations. People who are deaf and blind or partially sighted may be familiar with their immediate surroundings and frequently traveled routes. Nonetheless, since the emergency evacuation route might be different from commonly traveled routes, people who are deaf and blind or partially sighted should be assisted to exit the building.
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