An international conference about fire safety in Dublin this week will launch a universal sign language to communicate emergency procedures to deaf people. Delegates will also hear how evacuation drills often don’t consider people with limited mobility.
As well as wheelchair users, the term fire safety for all includes frail older people, children under five, women in the late stages of pregnancy, people with physical and intellectual disabilities and anyone with a health condition that limits their mobility. These individuals are often not considered enough in building design and fire-safety drills. One of the principal flaws in many fire-drill procedures is that space is allocated for only one wheelchair user during evacuation.
People in wheelchairs
Firefighters are often trained insufficiently in the matters of how to deal with individuals in wheelchairs. When firefighters go into a structure on fire and see a wheelchair user stuck in an unreachable place, they might carry the person out quickly without thinking whether they could do more harm than good if that person has other health problems.
Another matter is fire doors that have such a strong force when closing, that they are too problematic for some people to open when departing a structure in a crisis. Fire-prevention officers are not usually aware of disability problems. Their only worry is to make the structure fireproof.
The use of evac chairs in emergency circumstances is often ignored too. These handy lightweight chairs slide down the handrails of stairs, but what happens to the individual when they are transported out of the building deprived of their tailored wheelchair? One solution is to have limited use of lifts for susceptible people in certain disaster conditions.
A new universal sign language of 10 sign words is to be launched to communicate urgent safety procedures to deaf persons when a fire breaks out.
Many people go through many postponing actions when they hear a fire alarm. When the World Trade Centre structures were collided with in 2001, many people didn’t move rapidly enough. They collected their personal possessions, closed down their PCs properly, and looked for family members or friends. Some even waited for authorisation to leave the structure. As people frequently delay exit, emergency messages need to be communicated through numerous means.
A strobe light, a live voice dispatch over an intercom and clear screen commands that over-ride any work they are doing on their PCs are just some of the techniques to convey that an emergency is in progress.