Fire and Means of Escape for Disabled People

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Disabled Fire Safety Advice - Means of escapeIn the UK, it is a legal requirement for a business or workplace to carry out a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment of the risks of fire to their employees, and others, who may be affected by their work or business. The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 requires that employers or organisations take responsibility for safely evacuating people from a building or premises, including disabled people.

If you don’t consider the safe evacuation of disabled people from your premises, then it may be viewed as discrimination.

Your emergency procedures should be planned in advance and should take into account the needs of all occupants and users of the premises. Disabled people need to be considered as part of those emergency procedures and arrangements made for their safe evacuation in the event of a fire.

It is advised that professional advice is sought because almost every situation will vary and will depend upon the circumstances in each individual case...

It is advised that professional advice is sought because almost every situation will vary and will depend upon the circumstances in each individual case, but the needs of the disabled individual(s) and the characteristics of the premises and how the individual uses the premises will have to assessed.

BS 8300:2001 - The Design of buildings and their approaches to meet the needs of disabled people, contains information and guidance on the needs of disabled people. The information contained within this publication will also be helpful when considering evacuation measures for disabled persons. Further information on this guide can also be found at the British Standards Institute website.

The information detailed below is taken from HM Government’s guidance document on Means of Escape for disabled people. The document contains very useful guidance and examples.

A summary of the contents of the government guidance are included below for your information and the full document can be accessed FREE OF CHARGE on the GOV.UK website here . The guidance was endorsed by what was formerly the Disability Rights Commission. The Disability Rights Commission has now closed and has been replaced by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Legal overview summary

  • The Fire and Rescue Service’s role in fire evacuation is that of ensuring that the means of escape in case of fire and associated fire safety measures provided for all people who may be in a building are both adequate and reasonable, taking into account the circumstances of each particular case.
  • Under current fire safety legislation, it is the responsibility of the person(s) having responsibility for the building to provide a fire safety risk assessment that includes an emergency evacuation plan for all people likely to be in the premises, including disabled people, and how that plan will be implemented.
  • Such an evacuation plan should not rely upon the intervention of the Fire and Rescue Service to make it work. In the case of multi-occupancy buildings, responsibility may rest with a number of persons for each occupying organisation and with the owners of the building. It is important that they co-operate and co-ordinate evacuation plans with each other. This could present a particular problem in multi-occupancy buildings when the different escape plans and strategies need to be co-ordinated from a central point.
  • The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA) does not make any change to these requirements: it underpins the current fire safety legislation in England and Wales, the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, by requiring that employers or organisations providing services to the public take responsibility for ensuring that all people, including disabled people, can leave the building they control safely in the event of a fire.
  • Where an employer or a service provider does not make provision for the safe evacuation of disabled people from its premises, this may be viewed as discrimination. It may also constitute a failure to comply with the requirements of the fire safety legislation mentioned above.
  • Public bodies have an additional duty, called the Disability Equality Duty (DED), which from December 2006 requires them to proactively promote the equality of disabled people. This will require them to do even more to ensure that disabled people do not face discrimination by not being provided with a safe evacuation plan from a building

Summary of the Means of Escape for Disabled People Guide

The document on the GOV.UK website provides guidance on how organisations can ensure the safe evacuation of disabled people from their premises. We strongly recommend you read through it, and make yourself familiar with it, if you are a business, workplace or have members of the public on your premises. We have summarised its contents below:

  • Introduction
  • Background
  • Legal overview
  • Management practice
  • Reducing unnecessary escapes
  • Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans (PEEPs) for employees and regular visitors
  • Standard plans for occasional visitors
  • Unknown or uncontrolled visitors
  • Small buildings
  • Communication
  • Consultation
  • Making contact and defining roles
  • The communications process
  • The process
  • Interviewing staff
  • Contacting unknown visitors
  • Recruitment and training
  • Practice
  • Co-ordinated information
  • People’s preferred options for escape
  • Negotiate ‘reasonable adjustments’
  • Mobility impaired people
  • Wheelchair users
  • Carry-down procedures
  • Electrically powered wheelchairs
  • Hearing impaired and deaf people
  • Visually impaired and blind people
  • People with cognitive disabilities
  • Unknown requirements
  • Visitors and customers

For more information on Fire Risk Assessments, who is responsible for fire safety and 'the responsible person' The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 you can visit our Fire Risk Assessment pages.

If you require any additional information or advice please don’t hesitate to contact us.


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