Having evacuation plans in place when emergencies occur is a practice encouraged by the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA). The NFPA Life Safety Code actually has a requirement that certain kinds of facilities, such as healthcare centers, businesses, and educational facilities, make their evacuation plans public and that they plan drills on a regular basis. The problem is that the needs of disabled people are not always taken into consideration when making these plans. Given that more than 15% of the population on the planet has some kind of disability, it is important to keep these individuals safe. Having evacuation wheelchairs also called evac chairs or EMS chairs can go a long way to making sure people who need help getting to safety can be evacuated along with everyone else.
For Jennifer Feltenstein and another New Rochelle High school student, this is not so much of a theoretical question but is one that came too close to home in 2013. That year, a fire in one of the buildings of the campus suffered a fire that caused all students to be evacuated. All but these two students were removed and taken to safety. She told her family how scared she was during her ordeal.
Feltenstein told local media outlets a the time that the plan for students who use wheelchairs was to put them in what they were calling a “safe room.” Students were told, EMTs would get word of their location and would be in to bring them to safety. The problem is when a crisis struck and help never came. Moreover, the safe room, that Feltenstein was nearest to, had stairs that needed navigation to enter. Emergency response personnel were never told of the location of the disabled students and no one on staff knew how to use the evac chairs.
Feltenstein said that she had been telling the staff at the school not to put her in the safe room, which was located on the third floor.
One real issue is that there is no reason for staff at the Westchester school to not understand hoe evac chairs work. They are very easy to learn how to use and they can make a big difference when any kind of crisis rears its ugly head.
These lightweight evac chairs are easy to use and help one person bring someone who suffers from a mobility issue get down the stairs to safety. David Hoolickan, a safety expert at Evacusafe Dubai, where these evac chairs were recently added, says that these can be used to help people with a wide variety of issues with mobility. Whether they have limited use of their legs, are too weak to walk, or have any other problems with stairs, using evac chairs can get them to safety without risking injury.
Hoolickan added that when people are facing a crisis, it is often hard for them to think clearly. He says these chairs allow individuals with disabilities to be safely moved outside and then the chairs double as normal wheelchairs. These chairs are specifically designed so that just about any able-bodied person can move other people, regardless of their weight or size and do it in a way that spares both any injury.
Even businesses that have the right rescue chairs need to lay out their evacuation plans. Not only do people who may need the evac chairs be told where they are but also they need to know what the safest route out of the building. Schools often have fire drills, these need to include plans for any disabled students, faculty, or staff.
Following the plans that have been drawn up is another key part in keeping everyone safe. As was clear in the Westchester County, New York high school, officials said the emergency personnel who arrived to help evacuate the building would be told where their disabled students were but that never happened. By making a plan, practicing it so everyone knows what to do if a crisis happens, and then following through are three points that are critical to keeping everyone safe.
For businesses such as health care centers and shops where a lot of customers may be, it is crucial staff knows what to do.