General Evacuation Procedures
If an evacuation is ordered, follow these procedures:
- Stay calm, do not rush and do not panic.
- Gather your personal belongings if it is safe to do so. (Reminder: take prescription medications out with you if at all possible; it may be hours before you are allowed back in the building.)
- If safe, close your office door and window, but do not lock them.
- Use the nearest stairs and proceed to the nearest exit as outlined on the fire escape map located in each room of the building. Do not use the elevator.
- Wait for any instructions from emergency responders.
- Do not re-enter the building or work area until you have been instructed to do so by the emergency responders.
Evacuation Procedures for People with Disabilities
People with disabilities will often need assistance evacuating. Always ASK someone with a disability how you can help BEFORE attempting any rescue technique or giving assistance. Ask how he or she can best be assisted or moved, and whether there are any special considerations or items that need to come with the person.
Evacuating a disabled or injured person yourself is the last resort. Consider your options and the risks of injuring yourself and others in an evacuation attempt. Do not make an emergency situation worse. Evacuation is difficult and uncomfortable for both the rescuers and people being assisted. Some people have conditions that can be aggravated or triggered if they are moved incorrectly. Remember that environmental conditions (smoke, debris, loss of electricity) will complicate evacuation efforts.
Use the following guidelines:
- DO NOT use elevators, unless authorized to do so by police or fire personnel. Elevators could fail during a fire or major earthquake.
- If the situation is life threatening, call 911.
- Check on people with mobility disabilities during an evacuation.
- Attempt a rescue evacuation ONLY if you have had rescue training or the person is in immediate danger and cannot wait for professional assistance.
- In particular, be aware when assisting someone with a disability.
- The individual with the disability is the best expert in his or her disability, so ask that individual for advice before lifting or moving him/her.
- Take extra time when communicating with people who are deaf, hearing impaired or speech impaired.
- Never separate a disabled person from his or her assistive aids: wheelchairs, canes, hearing aids, medications, special diet food, urinary supplies, etc.
- A disabled person’s equipment may not be working after a disaster occurs, or it may be insufficient for emergency circumstances.
- A service animal, usually a dog, is an assistive aid used by some blind, deaf and mobility-impaired people. A disaster may temporarily confuse service animals and they may not be able to help their owners as effectively as before the disaster.
- Some individuals with emotional and developmental disabilities may be too unsettled to respond appropriately to instructions and directions, such as a public address announcement to evacuate a building. Some disabled individuals may need to be in a quiet place for a while to regain their composure; others may even try to hide from rescue workers.
- Some individuals with significant mental or learning disabilities might not understand the significance of “Keep Out” signs and barricade tape.
Assisting the blind or visually impaired:
- Give verbal instructions to advise about safest route or direction using compass directions, estimated distances and directional terms.
- DO NOT grasp a visually impaired person’s arm. Ask if he or she would like to hold onto your arm as you exit, especially if there is debris or a crowd.
- Give other verbal instructions or information (i.e. elevators cannot be used).
Assisting the deaf or hearing impaired:
Get the attention of a person with a hearing disability by touch and eye contact. Clearly state the problem. Gestures and pointing are helpful, but be prepared to write a brief statement if the person does not seem to understand.
- Offer visual instructions to advise of safest route or direction by pointing toward exits or evacuation maps.
Assisting the mobile impaired:
It may be necessary to help clear the exit route of debris (if possible) so that the person with a disability can move out or to a safer area.
- If people with mobility impairments cannot exit, they should move to a safer area and wait for assistance from first responders.
- Notify police or fire personnel immediately about any people remaining in the building and their locations.
- Police or fire personnel will decide whether people are safe where they are, and will evacuate them as necessary. The Fire Department may determine that it is safe to override the rule against using elevators.
- If people are in immediate danger and cannot be moved to a safer area to wait for assistance, it may be necessary to evacuate them using an evacuation chair or a carry technique.
- Discuss with the user of the wheelchair how to lift the user and the wheelchair either together or separately. When circumstances necessitate separating the user and the wheelchair, keep the period of separation to a minimum.
- Some parts of a wheelchair are safe to lift, others are not. Always ask the user to confirm where it is safe to lift. Also, ask the user what else you should know about his or her wheelchair in order to lift it safely.
- Wheelchairs with four wheels (not three-wheeled scooters) usually have handbrakes on each side of the chair. When the wheelchair is to remain stationary, set both brakes.
- When the lifting is complete, follow the instructions of the user and restore the manual or motorized wheelchair to full operation; then direct the user to a safe area.
- If an outage occurs during the day and people with disabilities choose to wait in the building for electricity to be restored, they can move near a window where there is natural light and access to a working telephone. Advise emergency personnel.