When a young soldier returns home injured from a war, we are there to help with his rehabilitation and return home. Part of our work is helping to fit the home with handicap accessories to make his return home easier. The adjustment is difficult and we work closely with these young men.
One major concern we have is checking their home for emergency evacuation in case of a fire or natural disaster. We use the NFPA emergency evacuation guide when planning the evacuation route to reach an area of refuge. The guide's designed for businesses to ensure the safety of their employees. We use the information in the guide to help the veterans plan for an emergency. This is important for anyone with mobility problems. Each person should have an escape plan in case of an emergency. If you are not familiar with the NFPA emergency evacuation plan I would like to share this information with you. When planning for an emergency evacuations consider:
Is there a Usable Circulation Path?
A usable circulation path means that a person with disabilities can travel unassisted through the path to a public passage. Second you must be able to travel through the circulation path to reach an area of refuge.
It is important to know where the emergency refuge shelters are in your area to find a temporary safe haven. It is necessary to know your route of escape in case of fire or natural disaster. If the refuge shelter is not accessible alone you will need to have others help you. Plan now and know who will be there to help you. If the building elevator's blocked by fire make sure you have access to a wheelchair carry on the stairs. If the building owner does not provide one it is a good idea to have one accessible for you. All business has handicap wheelchair carry on the stairs available. Most apartments do not have the wheelchair carry on the stairs available. Make sure you have emergency phone numbers of your neighbors handy. Arrange with your neighbors to help you down the stairs of your building using the wheelchair carry on the stairs. You may need two people to help you in getting down the stairs.
Which Circulation Paths Are Usable Circulation Paths?
It is the building owner's responsibility to clearly mark all exits of the building other than the main outside exit. The exit doors should have approved signs that are easily visible from any direction of approach to the exit doors.
Your building owner has the responsibility to mark exits properly. If the exit is not handicap accessible one sign's used on the emergency exit door. If the exit is handicap accessible the handicap sign's used on the emergency exit door. The building owner has to post the international symbol of accessibility for handicap exits.
If you are living in an apartment building the owner of your building is responsible for clearly marking all exits from the building. If your building owner has not properly marked the exits please write a letter to the owner asking to comply with the law. By law all business building owners have to supply you with some form of written directions showing you the path to exit the building safely in case of an emergency.
Depending on the number of floors in your apartment it is a good idea to make a floor plan of your building. This can be a simple drawing or ask the owner if he has one. Keep this near your front door or next to your telephone. Have all your emergency numbers programmed into your telephone or cell phone. Prepare an emergency evacuation bag that can easily hook to the back of your wheelchair. The bag should contain two changes of clothes, your medical information if you need special medications and two day supply of any medications you have to take daily. Check your bag once a month and change out the medication stored in your bag. Keep your emergency bag current and easily available.
When designing your emergency evacuation plan consider the following:
- Which circulation paths are usable circulation paths?
- Which paths lead to usable circulation paths?
- Can you use the usable circulation path alone?
- Is there a direct exit to a ramp?
- Can you use the stairs?
- Is it possible to use the elevator?
- Are there lifts available?
- What other means are available? (Evacuation aids, stair-descent equipment, wheelchair carry, and do they need support from other)
- Who will provide you help?
- The person providing you help how will you contact them?
- Do you have more than one person to help you in case the other is not available?
Planning is the key to a successful evacuation from your home or apartment. If you use an electronic wheelchair consider having access to a manual wheelchair in case of an emergency. A manual wheelchair is easier to carry down the stair than an electronic wheelchair. If you can use the stairs alone have access to a storage area for your wheelchair when you arrive. Ask the owner of your building if there is a storage location that can store your wheelchair in case of an emergency.
Plan your escape route to arrive at the refuge shelter in your area. If you are unsure where the emergency shelter is contact your local police or fire department. A fire or natural disaster can happen at anytime without warning. Prepare yourself ahead of time so you are safe. Remember that you need special care in an emergency. Make sure now that you are ready before it is too late.
*Image courtesy Flickr creative commons.