14/05/2013

Evacuation Chairs and the Importance of Training

Many of you will have read previous articles and blog entries from me concerning means of escape from multi-storey buildings and also the importance of knowing how to get out of a building before you go in it especially for wheelchair users. So today I’m going to revisit the subject but this time looking more at the importance of evacuation chairs along with the essential need for correct training that unfortunately is lacking in most of our multi-storey buildings currently open to members of the public. 

Firstly imagine if you will multi-storey buildings with passenger lifts only and no stairs, no building in the UK or any civilised country would be passed by Building Control because stairs are used for emergency evacuation and are essential for getting out of the building in an emergency because 99% of passenger lifts in buildings will not work in an emergency situation with only 1% of lifts being deemed fire protected lifts that can be used in emergency.  

So what is this all got to do with disabled people getting out the building?  

Obviously wheelchair users cannot go down multiple flight of stairs (well some very fit WH users can but they are certainly in the minority) so if the building does not have means to use the stairs in an emergency when the lifts are not accessible i.e. evacuation chairs then the wheelchair user has no option other than be taken to an area of safe refuge or be abandoned at the top of stairs and hope that the Fire Brigade get to them before the flames and smoke does! All sounds quite frightening when you think about it in the cold light of day.

You would think that the easy solution would be to simply change regulations to ensure that evacuation chairs are placed at the top of all flights of multi-storey buildings, if only life were that simple!

This then throws up a whole new problem and means that in an emergency situation we have evacuation chairs being used by untrained staff and even passers by trying to assist disabled people down stairs in a hurry and in doing so probably injuring or even killing disabled people as they lose grip of either the chair or their own footing.

So what’s the answer?

In a nut shell its install evacuation chairs on all landings of multi storey buildings but and here is the important part ensure full evacuation chair training is undertaken and that staff or trained volunteers are on hand to offer safe evacuation assistance. If no trained members are available then the chairs should not be used and an alternative safe refuge provided.

If you have any concerns contact a professional evacuation chair specialist such as Evacusafe that can offer a range of training including online training courses.