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Disability Guidelines

The following guidelines are general and may not apply in every circumstance:

  • Always ask disabled people how you can help BEFORE attempting any rescue technique or giving assistance. Ask how they can best be assisted or moved, and if there are any special, considerations or items that need to come with them.
  • Occupants should be invited to volunteer ahead of time to assist disabled people in an emergency. If volunteers are not available, designate someone to assist who is willing to accept the responsibility.
  • Two or more volunteers, if available, should conduct the evacuation.
  • Do not evacuate disabled people in their wheelchairs. This is standard practice to ensure the safety of disabled people and volunteers. Wheelchairs will be evacuated later if possible.
  • Before attempting an evacuation, volunteers and the people being assisted should discuss how any lifting will be done and where they are going.
  • Proper lifting techniques (e.g. bending the knees, keeping the back straight, holding the person close before lifting and using leg muscles to lift) should be used to avoid injury to rescuer’s backs. Ask permission of the evacuee if an evacuation chair or similar device is being considered as an aid in an evacuation. When using such devices, make sure the person is secured properly. Be careful on stairs and rest at landings if necessary.
  • Certain lifts may need to be modified depending on the disabilities of the people.


Prepare occupants in your building ahead of time for emergency evacuations. Know your building occupants. Train staff, faculty and students to be aware of the needs of people with disabilities and to know how to offer assistance. Hold evacuation drills in which occupants participate, and evaluate drills to identify areas that need improvement. Plans must cover regular working hours, after hours and weekends.

Everyone needs to take responsibility for preparing for emergencies. People with disabilities should consider what they would do and whether they need to take additional steps to prepare. Emergency guidelines for people with disabilities follow. If you have questions or need additional information, contact one of the campus organizations below:

  • Building evacuation plan: building manager
  • Disability issues: Office of Special Student Services
  • Fire regulations, safe areas: campus fire marshal

Guidelines for People with Disabilities

  • Make your environment fire safe (make sure your exit route is clear).
  • Keep sufficient emergency supplies to last three days (include food, water, prescription medicines and any other supplies you might need).
  • Become familiar with alternate routes and learn the safe areas in buildings you use frequently.

Develop strategies for your protection. For example, if you use a wheelchair and cannot duck and cover under a table:

  • Protect your head as much as possible.
  • Move away from windows, filing cabinets, bookcases, light fixtures and heavy objects that could shatter, fall or tip over.
  • Engage the electronic brake or wheel locks on your wheelchair.

Consider various disaster scenarios and decide ahead of time what you would do in different emergencies. For example, people with power wheelchairs should consider the following:

  • In evacuations, it is standard practice to evacuate disabled people without their wheelchairs. Where should you be located while waiting for your wheelchair?
  • Are there certain medications or support systems you need?
  • Do you have access to another wheelchair if yours cannot be evacuated?

Know your limitations and be aware of your needs in different emergencies. If you need assistance, ask for it. People may not be aware of your circumstances or know how they can help. Consider how people will give you emergency information and how you will communicate your needs if you have impaired speaking, hearing or sight.

Consider arranging a buddy system with friends or colleagues so someone will check with you, alert you as necessary and see whether you need assistance. If you need to be evacuated, help yourself and rescuers by providing them with information about your needs and the best ways to assist you.