An evacuation chair is a secure seat designed to assist in removing persons who lack the ability to relocate freely and easily from a dangerous situation to a safe location.
Their purpose is to promote equality and provide a means of escape for those who are disabled or mobility impaired.
As you can probably already tell from this definition, evacuation chairs are an essential resource for many people. But are they a legal requirement or just a moral obligation?
Let’s take a more detailed look at the law to find out.
Providing a safe, emergency exit is a serious issue. Anyone responsible for a public facility is legally and morally obligated to provide a safe means of egress for all people who may be on the premises. That includes any people with a disability, injury or mobility impairment. This includes any heavily pregnant woman or bariatric people. Therefore, an equal means of escape is required for EVERYONE.
A thorough risk assessment must be carried out by professionals and a detailed emergency exit plan should be implemented in the event of a fire or other emergency that requires the safe escape of the premises. This will ensure that current legislation is adhered to and all requirements are met.
Emergency Escape Planning
Your emergency exit plan should be executable by occupants of your building at any given time and should not rely on outside resources. Wherever possible, exiting a building is necessary before the arrival of fire and rescue services. As with any such specialist equipment, it is highly recommended that anyone responsible for using an item such as an escape chair, transit-chair or recuse-sheet, has received the correct professional training. This will ensure the equipment is used safely, correctly and of course effectively, therefore minimising any risk of injury to the evacuee.
Multi-occupancy buildings may entail multiple people—each in charge of their own organisation—being concurrently responsible for adequately planned and executed exit plans. These people have to be able to coordinate plans (with the other organisations on the premises) to ensure the escape of all occupants according to the escape plan.
You may need to set up your own exit plan to be coordinated from a central location, especially if you have a large facility or more than one building. This allows all responsible persons to report to a single point of reference to ensure everyone’s safety.
What The UK Law States
The Regulatory Reform Order (Fire Safety) 2005 requires that all organisations or employers in England and Wales to provide the appropriate accommodations to ensure all people can exit the building safely in the event of an emergency. That entails accommodations being made for all types of disabled people in the need of an emergency situation.
If a service provider or employer does not make provisions for the safe escape of all people, no matter which disability they may suffer (this could be physical or mental), they could be charged with discrimination and potentially prosecuted.
Failure to provide the necessary means of a safe exit for all persons could also mean you are in violation of compliance requirements set forth by the fire safety legislation as mentioned above.
Not only are you required to have a plan in place—with the proper provisions for all people—you are also required by the Disability Equality Duty (DED) to promote the equality of disabled people.
Failure to comply with the DED could result in discrimination charges because you did not provide a safe exit plan, harbour the necessary tools, or promote a sense of equality among all of your patrons or employees.
Remember, not all disabilities are immediately visible!
Our Top Seller
Evacuation chairs are an extremely effective means of escape for most disabled people, or those who suffer other mobility impairments and can be found in many established business premises around the globe every day. As we have already mentioned, each model of chair requires training for all users, to ensure full safety and guidelines are adhered to. To ensure maximum efficiency in the use of such equipment, regular practice to refresh how to correctly use the kit is highly recommended by anyone who is responsible for the operation as this will make using them second nature and ensure full safety for the evacuee due to effective use.
To help reduce the risks, additional persons should be involved in the use of the some chair models. You may view Evacusafe’s number one best seller can be purchased here.
Alternative Escape Without Escape Chairs
Other equipment is also available which can be used in place of an escape chair which will still cover legislation. For example, Evacusafe UK sell a range of patient transport chairs, which are similar to those used by the ambulance services. Another piece of popular cost-effective kit is the Evacuslider Rescuse-sheets. There are a wide range available and, once again they will cover your business premises legally by providing a safe escape for all. Evacusliders are essentially a modern take on the traditional rescue-sheets used for years by hospitals and care homes in order to move patients to a place of safety.
Is It Safe To Carry-Down A Patient In Or Out Of Wheelchair?
For safety reasons this is not advisable. To be honest this is not the best or a recommended solution and does not cover what the law states. If a person has their own wheelchair, you could carry them down the stairs in it. This defeats the object of the specialist design of evac chairs. As long as you have at least two people to help, you can hold the wheelchair at the fixed points on each corner of the chair. It’s not an ideal solution at all and a rather risky one in all honesty. Especially when there are professional tools available on the market.
Consulting the Disabled Person
If possible, it’s always best to consult with the disabled person when creating an exit plan so they can give their input as to the methods with which they feel comfortable. A professionally trained staff member will easily assure any concerns the evacuee may have.
If you are an employer of one or more disabled people, you can conduct interviews to get their perspective as you develop your plan. They can be involved in the implementation and practising of the plan as much or as little as they’d like.
Giving them the opportunity to provide input demonstrates a concern for the equal opportunity of all disabled people in the workplace.
If you operate a business in which you don’t know what sort of disabled persons might be in the facility at the time of an emergency, make sure you account for all possible scenarios when developing your safe exit plan.
It’s also critical that you provide the staff training necessary for assisting people with all types of disabilities in the event of an emergency.
No one should be left inside, and sometimes an effective method of ensuring complete evacuation is to have a fire warden sweep the building to look for signs that someone with or without a disability is left behind. Click here for more details.
The short answer is NO but it’s not as simple as that! While for some organisations it may be possible to eliminate the risk of placing persons with reduced mobility on upper levels, ensuring their exit is straight out at street level, for others that is simply not an option. Without the appropriate equipment to assist someone who may not be able to self-evacuate via the stairs, you have not met your requirements under the Fire Safety Order and possibly discriminated someone under the Equality Act. Evacuation chairs and rescue-sliders help to make you compliant is respect of these pieces of legislation.
It’s your responsibility to implement your own evacuation plans, but you need to make sure you are promoting the equal rights of every person with a disability and documenting the necessary means of escape in the event of an emergency. A full site assessment will advise you of which equipment you require to comply with the law, how many units you need and where best to place the equipment.