Evacuation Procedures for People with Disabilities
In all emergencies, after an evacuation has been ordered:
- Evacuate people with disabilities if possible. If not possible, assist them to an area of safe refuge such as an Emergency Evacuation Zone (EEZ), a stairwell landing or other designated area and let them know help is on route.
- Report to your location and the number of people requiring assistance by using the emergency phone located at the EEZ.
- Do not use elevators unless authorized to do so by police or fire personnel.
- Check on people with special needs during an evacuation. Come up with a ‘buddy system’ where people with disabilities arrange for co-workers/classmates to alert and assist them in an emergency.
General Tips on Helping a Person with a Disability
- Always ask first if you can be of any assistance.
- For people who are deaf-blind, use your finger to draw an “X” on their back to let them know you are there to help during an emergency.
- To communicate with a deaf-blind person, try tracing letters with your finger on the palm of their hand.
- To guide the person, offer them your arm instead of taking theirs and walk at his or her pace, keeping half a step ahead.
- If the person has a service dog, ask where you should walk to avoid distracting the animal.
- Provide advance warning of upcoming stairs, curbs, major obstacles or changes in direction.
- Watch for overhangs or protrusions the person could walk into.
- Get the person’s attention via a visual cue or a gentle touch on the arm before speaking to him or her.
- Face the person and make eye contact when speaking to them as they may rely on speech reading.
- Communicate in close proximity.
- Speak clearly and naturally.
- Use gestures to help explain the meaning of what you are trying to communicate to the person.
- Write a message if there is time and keep a pencil and paper handy.
- Mobility limitations may make it difficult for a person to use stairs or to move quickly over long distances. These can include reliance on mobility devices such as a wheelchair, scooter, walker, crutches or a walking cane. In addition, people with heart conditions or various respiratory difficulties can experience limited mobility.
- It may be necessary to help clear the exit route of debris, if possible, so that the person with a disability can move to a safer area.
- If a person with mobility impairment cannot exit, he or she should move to a safer area, such as an Emergency Evacuation Zone or enclosed stairwell or an office with a shut door a good distance from the hazard.
What you should and should not do:
- Ask first if the person needs or wants your help.
- Allow the person to identify how best you can assist him or her.
- Do not touch the person, his or her service animal and/or assistive device/equipment without permission.
- Follow instructions posted on special needs equipment and/or assistive device during an emergency.
- Avoid attempts to lift, support or assist in moving someone unless you are familiar with safe techniques.
- Never administer any food or liquids to an unconscious or unresponsive person.
- Be aware that some people who have disabilities may request that you use latex free gloves to reduce spread of viral infection.
- Ask the person if areas of his or her body have reduced sensation. If so, you may need to check those areas for injury.
- Do not assume the person cannot see you, or that he or she needs your help.
- Never grab or touch a person with vision loss.
- Do not touch, make eye contact or distract the person’s service dog as this can seriously endanger the owner.
- Do not shout at a person with vision loss. Speak clearly and provide specific and precise directions.
- Avoid the term “over there”. Instead, describe locating positions such as, “to your right/left/straight ahead/behind you”, or by relaying clock face positions.
- Avoid approaching the person from behind.
- Refrain from shouting or speaking unnaturally slowly.