We CAN all get out together
Thinking about emergency evacuation is a bit like making a will, no-one wants to do it, but everyone should?
Unless you are a disabled person with reduced mobility (PRM), you very seldom consider the implications of a non-existent evacuation plan on those who are.
Failing to provide a suitable means of escape for reduced mobility persons is not only discriminatory, but also non-compliant with the legal requirements of Articles 14 & 15 of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. These two Articles state that all persons must be able to move away from immediate danger, leaving the building as quickly and as safely as possible. It is worth noting that this is criminal law with no caveats or exclusions for general needs or disabled residents.
Many lifts breakdown on a regular basis with the majority of these not being fire-protected so cannot be used to evacuate in an emergency. All too often, existing evacuation advice for PRM residents or employees is to ‘stay put’ in their residence, or place of work, and wait for the Fire Rescue Services to assist them out of the building. This does not meet the legal requirement and is unacceptable, especially when there are products on the market that would help safely evacuate PRM residents at the same time as everyone else. The Law requires that the evacuation plan for all relevant persons must be to place of ultimate safety so evacuation to a refuge does not meet this requirement. A safe place of ultimate is as far away from the building as possible, as soon as possible!
This idea that “we CAN all evacuate together” has been acknowledged by Evaccess for the past 15yrs, and we work alongside people who do not want to be left behind, waiting for assistance in an emergency evacuation. One such person is Sarah. Sarah realised that she had no means of escape from her 13th floor flat in a high rise building. Elspeth, one of our consultants, knew that Evaccess had the perfect solution for Sarah’s needs. Bringing us all together, we took one of our CD-7 tracked evacuation chairs – probably the safest manual downward evacuation chair in the world.
This is what Sarah had to say:
“Thinking about emergency evacuation is a bit like making a will, no-one wants to do it, but everyone should. As a wheelchair user living in a high rise flat, I put it off for far too long and wish I had not. The team listened to my concerns without judgement and helped find a solution which works for me, and my care team, if I ever need to evacuate. I sleep soundly now!”
In recent weeks, we have also assisted Georgie. She was told that the building owners would not offer an evacuation device. Unable to rest easy with no existing means of escape, Georgie contacted us. We were able to perform a site survey, ensuring we had a chair that was suitable for her disability and location. Following this, we completed training with Georgie, her partner and neighbours. Georgie raised money for this chair using Crowdfund, and we were so happy to help. She now feels safe and confident in her own home – a basic right that we should all be entitled to!
PEEPS: Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan
Do not forget the importance of having a personal emergency evacuation plan in place for anyone who may require one. It is your responsibility to get people to a place of safety (not a refuge area), not that of the Fire Service. If you have a particular person who requires assistance, then a Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan (PEEPs) must be completed, and the correct equipment purchased. Why purchase a ‘standard evac chair’ for a person in a powered wheelchair, that cannot be used by the person who needs it!
Disabled people are being advised by the Equality & Human Rights Commission (EHRC) that they can make a formal equality complaint under the Equality Act 2010 and the Human Rights Act 1998 for failure to provide an auxiliary aid or service such as an assisted escape device. The EHRC have also provided a template letter that can be used in the process. It is worth noting that the Vento Scale for compensation for prolonged discrimination causing stress and mental health issues, ranges from £27,400 – £45,600 per claim.
It is essential that building managers, managing agents and fire risk assessors are also aware that there is now no published fire safety guidance that fails to advise that personal emergency evacuation plans (PEEPs) must be provided for disabled people.
As stated in Myth busting PEEPs #5: “You should be living on the ground floor” people have a right to choose where they live. This should not be restricted because of a lack of care by building owners. What if an individual is living on a 15th floor before they develop mobility issues? Is it reasonable to expect them to move from their home? Read more about this: https://claddag.org/2021/06/26/mythbusting-peeps-5-you-should-be-living-on-the-ground-floor/
Evaccess assess the situation, we then offer solution for bespoke and general needs. We supply manual friction belt chairs, powered Stair Climbers for access as well as egress and powered Stair Climbers for narrow, spiral, flared or outdoor stairs and landings. Providing THE RIGHT evacuation solution is about the person who will be most reliant on using it. Never assume that one evacuation chair ‘will do’ for everyone, or that having one is a choice and not a requirement!
Call Evaccess today for more information:
0121 444 3690