The following provides a general guideline of evacuation procedures for persons with disabilities during a fire and any other building emergency. Faculty, staff, and students with disabilities must work with their supervisors, faculty, Resident Advisors, and the Environmental Health and Safety Office to identify their primary and secondary evacuation routes from each building they use. Emergency exit route signs are posted in conspicuous locations throughout university buildings. Each sign identifies primary exit routes, alternate exit routes, fire safety equipment, and Designated Assembly Areas. Emergency exit route signs also provide the building's physical address and name.
To ensure a quick exit in the event of an emergency, individuals with disabilities need to:
Most university buildings have accessible exits at the ground level floor that can be used during an emergency. However, in many buildings, people will need to use stairways to reach building exits. Elevators cannot be used because they have been shown to be unsafe to use in an emergency and in some buildings they are automatically recalled to the ground floor.
For additional information about emergency evacuation and emergency procedures please reference the Environmental Health and Safety Office’s Emergency Preparedness Guides available on line at ehs.gmu.edu.
Persons with disabilities must evacuate to the nearest exit. Persons with disabilities have four basic evacuation options:
Usually, the safest areas of assistance are pressurized stair enclosures common to high-rise buildings, and open-air exit balconies. Other possible areas of assistance include: fire rated corridors or vestibules adjacent to exit stairs, and pressurized elevator lobbies. Many campus buildings feature fire rated corridor construction that may offer safe refuge. Taking a position in a rated corridor next to the stair is a good alternative to a small stair landing crowded with the other building occupants using the stairway. For assistance in identifying areas of assistance, call the Environmental Health and Safety Office.
For false or needless alarms or an isolated and contained fire, a person with a disability may not have to evacuate. The decision to evacuate will be made by the responding county or city fire department. The fire department will communicate their decision to the University Police in the more expeditious fashion.
Prior planning and practicing of emergency evacuation routes are important in assuring a safe evacuation.
Mobility Impaired - Wheelchair
Persons using wheelchairs should stay in place, or move to an area of assistance with their assistant when the alarm sounds. The evacuation assistant should then proceed to the evacuation assembly point outside the building and tell the University Police or the responding fire officials the location of the person with a disability. If the person with a disability is alone, he/she should phone emergency services at 911 with their present location and the area of refuge to which he/she is headed to.
If the stair landing is chosen as the area of assistance, please note that many campus buildings have relatively small stair landing, and wheelchair users are advised to wait until the heavy traffic has passed before entering the stairway.
Stairway evacuation of wheelchair users should be conducted by trained professionals (i.e. the fire department of other trained emergency responders). Only in situations of extreme danger should untrained people attempt to evacuate wheelchair users. Moving a wheelchair down the stairs is never safe.
Reasonable accommodations for persons with hearing impairments may be met by modifying the building fire alarm system, particularly for occupants who spend most of their day in one location. Persons needing such accommodation should contact the ADA Coordinator at 703-993-8857 for assistance.
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