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Emergency Planning For Someone With A Disability

Written by:
Paula Coster

BA (Hons), MSc.
Associate Member CIEHF

Under current fire safety legislation, it is the duty of the “responsible person” to provide an evacuation plan for all people in the building.  This is including people with disabilities; where people have additional needs, a personal plan or PEEP is required.

Who is responsible for emergency evacuation planning?

The Responsible Person

In the Fire Order, the “responsible person” is usually the employer or business owner. They are the person ultimately responsible for implementing fire safety measures to minimise the risk of life. The responsible person may want assistance from a nominated competent person.

The Competent Person

This is a person with enough training and experience, knowledge and other qualities to enable them to properly assist in undertaking the preventive and protective measures.

PEEPs (Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans)

When someone is identified in your fire risk assessment as needing their own escape plan, written for their specific requirements, you need a Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan. This is a plan for a person who may need assistance, for instance, a person with impaired mobility,  to evacuate a building or reach a place of safety in the event of an emergency.

Note: Fire evacuation planning for a person with a disability should be matched to the building so people who regularly use different buildings may require a separate plan for each location.

Who needs a PEEP?

Anyone who needs help in an emergency situation, not in normal everyday circumstances, should have a Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan unique to them.

Ask yourself  “Can this person leave the building unaided in an emergency?”

If the answer is No, they need their own evacuation plan.

A PEEP may be needed for someone with an impairment or disability such as:

  • Mobility impairment
  • Sight impairment
  • Hearing impairment
  • Cognitive impairment
  • A medical condition or injury which might cause them to need assistance to evacuate safely.

Sometimes the requirement for a Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan may be temporary for instance, someone who is using a wheelchair because of a broken leg or someone in the late stages of pregnancy.

IMPORTANT – the plan must not rely on the Fire and Rescue Service’s intervention to make the plan work.

Writing the PEEP

Each person’s disability and needs will be different and therefore each person requiring a plan needs one specific to their own requirements to allow them to safely exit.  Formulating the plan should be a collaborative effort between the person with a disability and the responsible or competent person.

Not all people with a disability will require assistance from another person. In some instances, where suitable aids and adaptations have been provided, the person will be able to facilitate their own escape. Recognising their dignity and right to independent evacuation is an important part of the planning so good negotiation skills are needed.

Your Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan should:

  • Identify areas of safety/refuge*.
  • Determine safe routes to a place of safety.
  • Name anyone appointed to assist the person in an emergency.
  • List specialist equipment that may be necessary.
  • Identify where staff training is needed.
  • Detail when and how escape practise will take place.

To cover all eventualities, the plan should detail all the options for a safe escape. this may or may not require the provision of a safe refuge* as an interim place of safety.)

The provision of a refuge will permit a staged evacuation to be implemented if necessary. Any area identified as a safe refuge must fall within a fire-protected area and be clearly signed. It must be separated from the fire by fire-resisting construction and should provide a safe route to final exit e.g. the head of a protected stairway.

Recruiting assistants

Employers may need to raise staff awareness, particularly if there is a shortage of volunteers. Disability awareness training can encourage volunteers. It may also be possible to incentivise staff with accreditation or remuneration for attending the training.

Staff Training

Training must be provided for anyone involved with the evacuation plan. Training provided should include disability awareness, disability evacuation etiquette, and moving, lifting and handling techniques.

Practising escape plans

Any escape plans should be practised on a regular basis – the Government recommendation is at least every six months.

People with a learning difficulty should practise their escape route more frequently, on a monthly basis.

All people in the escape plan should be involved.

A last word

It is really important to make every effort to maintain the dignity of a disabled person during any practice escapes.

When planning for an emergency, it should be remembered, these are measures to take in exceptional circumstances.

“The level of effort required of a disabled person may not be acceptable for practise or false alarm or in everyday activities. The procedures put in place should take account of this and allow for simulation in the case of fire drills or other emergency evacuation practices.”

Fire safety risk assessment: means of escape for disabled people. Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government.

Need more help?

For help with managing your emergency procedures, get in touch. We can offer you: