So you use a wheelchair, and you work on the 2nd, or 3rd, or 27th floor. The fire alarm goes off. The elevators are locked down. Everyone is rushing for the stairwell. What are you doing?

There has never been a very good consensus on how a mobility-impaired person is supposed to safely evacuate a multi-story building in an emergency. I’ve seen a variety of plans, none of which are reassuring. The “area of refuge” concept is particularly disturbing – some location on your floor is designated as your “area of refuge”. It (theoretically) is fireproof and has a telephone; rescue workers (theoretically) know that someone might be there and come find them.

Suppose your alarm was a drill? So far, every place I’ve worked has exempted me from drills. This seems unwise – don’t practice the hard part?

Perhaps wheelchair users need to develop personal evacuation plans, rather than hoping that their employer’s emergency response plan will have the answer.

Some resources:
Disaster Preparedness Resources for People with Disabilities
Enabling Safe Evacuations
Personal Emergency Egress Plans


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