It’s Your Responsibility to Evacuate the Less Able in a Fire

Firefighters

So it’s not the Fire Brigade’s responsibility to evacuate disabled people from my building! – The myth dispelled

Under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, the employer has to ensure that all emergency routes and exits must lead as directly as possible to a place of safety. This place of safety is a safe area beyond the premises.

However, when undertaking your fire risk assessment within your healthcare premises, you have to allow for less able persons to be able to exit the building safely in the event of a fire.

This should be relatively straight forward if your premises are of single storey construction or you only see and treat disabled persons on the ground floor. But what if your building has more than one floor and there are treatment rooms on the first, second, third floors and so on. Accessing those treatment rooms under normal circumstances for disabled persons would more than likely be via a lift. But what happens in the event of a fire in the premises and you are unable to use the lift ? How will any disabled persons be able to exit the building safely ?

Refuge Point

refuge-point-signThis is where the Refuge Point would be the first part of any evacuation strategy. Refuge points are usually found on landings within a protected staircase. The construction of the staircase and the provision of fire doors should give you added time to ensure the disabled person can ultimately get to that place of safety beyond the premises.

The question that usually gets asked at this point is “Can I leave the disabled person in the refuge point for them to wait to be rescued by the Fire Service ?” The simple answer to that question is No. The fire service should not form any part of your evacuation strategy. You should ensure that you are able to get the disabled person to a place of safety.

Government Fire Safety Risk Assessment in Healthcare Premises

On pages 30 and 31 of the HM Government Fire Safety Risk Assessment in Healthcare Premises (available to download from www.gov.uk/government/publications/fire-safety-risk-assessment-healthcare-premises) document under the heading Emergency Evacuation of Persons with Mobility Impairment, it states “The plan should not rely on fire and rescue service involvement for it to be effective”.

The document goes on to give further information on Refuge Points on pages 75 and 76. One of the bullet points states: “Where refuges are provided, they should be enclosed in a fire-resisting structure which creates a protected escape route leading directly to a place of safety and should only be used in conjunction with effective management rescue arrangements. Your fire evacuation strategy should not rely on the fire and rescue service rescuing people waiting in a refuge”.

It also goes on to give further information on staff and training to ensure that disabled persons can be led to a place of safety in the event of a fire.

Escape Aids & Training

How can this be achieved ? Well there are a number of ways that disabled persons can be assisted down stairs to a place of safety. You may want to consider an evacuation chair or maybe a carry/slide sheet. However this means that you will require adequate numbers of staff who are suitably trained in using these escape aids.

Sirius Business Services can advise and assist in helping you comply with your requirements under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order by undertaking fire risk assessments, advising on fire evacuation plans, training staff as fire wardens and in the use of evacuation equipment. Please contact us on 0800 999 3998 or visit our use our contact from for more information.

Photo: U.S. Air Force – Public Domain

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