Plans for group evacuations are critical for public buildings with visitors unfamiliar with evacuation arrangements. An effective contingency plan reduces risk and could be the difference between a safe evacuation and a major disaster.
It’s important that any emergency evacuation plan has some level of contingencies, or general accommodations for those people who have not been identified, including those who may have a temporary impairment (i.e. a broken leg), are expectant or acquire an emergent disability during an real emergency.
Some simple strategies that have been suggested include:
- Providing a sign at reception counters stating “We operate a system of assisted evacuation for visitors with disabilities. Please tell our receptionist your requirements.”
- Unambiguous way-finding and exit signage, displayed in accessible formats with Braille and tactile characters.
- Displaying large emergency evacuation diagrams that clearly shown where a person is located and accessible paths of outlet. This might include directing people with mobility impairments to an evacuation chair or staging area for assisted evacuation.
- Providing the information in a range of formats (Braille, large print, etc.).
- Establishing good communication strategies, including public announcements updating occupants with information.
- Visual alarms in isolated locations (i.e. change rooms and toilets) and in public spaces.
- Security staff in public assembly buildings, shopping centres and the like who can implement standardised GEEP actions during an emergency.
- The use of security cameras is advantageous to monitor people’s behaviour and movement within way out routes, particularly important to identify people who may find the evacuation difficult and may need stretchers or chairs.
- Tour group organisers have an important role and can be used as part of the plans to manage their group’s evacuation.
- In hotels and other accommodation type buildings, the booking and check-in procedure could offer an opportunity to identify additional needs by asking general questions during each process. These arrangements can also be displayed in accessible rooms and throughout public areas of the building.
- Staff with evacuation responsibilities should also attend training on disability awareness and methods of assistance, including the use of any evacuation devices such as evacuation chairs or evacuation lifts. This would include all fire wardens and security staff.