Evacuation of People with Disabilities

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to discuss issues of fire safety with the Director of the Office of Disability Resources and to inform Faculty and other University personnel of issues specific to their disability that may be necessary to know in the event of an emergency. If an emergency evacuation is necessary, here are some helpful guidelines:

Mobility Impairments

  • Ambulatory—Persons with limited mobility who are able to walk independently, either with or without the use of crutches or a cane, may be able to negotiate stairs with minor assistance in an emergency situation. Even some persons who customarily use a wheelchair or scooter for long distance travel may be able to walk independently in an emergency situation. If individuals are able to walk up or down stairs, it is advisable that they wait until the heavy traffic has cleared before attempting to evacuate if possible. Someone should walk beside the person to provide assistance in exiting the building, if needed.
  • Non-Ambulatory—In keeping with current philosophy and preference to "stay in place," the most recent advice from fire and campus safety experts is that wheelchair users should exit the building on their own if they are able to do so. If they encounter stairs or otherwise cannot exit independently, wheelchair users should move to, and remain at, a designated area of rescue assistance until emergency rescue personnel arrive. A specific person should be designated to inform emergency personnel of the individual's exact location. If rescue is deemed necessary, qualified personnel should assist in the evacuation. Please be aware that the person with the disability is the best authority on how to be moved.

Visual Impairments

Most people with vision loss will be familiar with their immediate surroundings. In the event of an emergency, tell the person the nature of the emergency and offer to guide him or her to the nearest emergency exit. Have the person take your elbow as you offer escort out of the building. As you walk, tell the individual where you are and advise of any obstacles (stairs, doors, etc.). When you reach safety, orient the person to their surroundings and ask if any further assistance is needed.

Hearing Impairments

If a building is not equipped with visual fire alarms, some individuals may not hear audio emergency alarms and will need to be alerted to the situation by gestures or by turning the light switch on and off. Emergency instructions can be given by verbalizing, mouthing, or by a short, explicit note. Example: "Fire alarms—go out south doors—now!" If you have questions or concerns about evacuation strategies, please contact the Office of Disability Resources at 513-529-1541. For more comprehensive information published by the National Fire Protection Association, see Emergency Evacuation Planning Guide for People with Disabilities (PDF).