Despite their purpose to protect the public, evacuation chairs are often an afterthought within built environments that require them. At best, they are kept in a stairwell behind the entrance or within a storage cupboard well out of plain sight. Sometimes, they are not provided whatsoever.

It is particularly shocking considering the amount of legislation that is out there to ensure proper installation and maintenance of evacuation chairs, but it is a reality that our access auditors face when visiting a site that egress is ignored, particularly when it comes to the evacuation of disabled people.

One multi-storey site which we audited a long time ago lacked any kind of procedure for the egress of disabled people. As well as lacking in visual fire alarms, the site had a policy that disabled employees should remain seated behind their desk in the event of a fire and to wait for someone to help them. Not only did this demonstrate a lack of care for the safety of wheelchair users, but it was an example of inequality of access and therefore discrimination.

Even if your site happens to own an evacuation chair(s), maintenance is a crucial element that ensures that, in the event of an emergency, your egress is reliable. People, whatever their ability, are naturally reluctant about emergency equipment that is left to gather dust, but with chair maintenance considered and correct evacuation procedures in place you ensure that your site is safe and considers their needs, which has its own benefits.

Direct Access offers evacuation chairs built with disabled users in mind, as well as a fully inclusive training course to ensure staff understand how to assist potentially mobility-impaired users in the event of an emergency.

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Basing our recommendations off legislation designed to protect disabled people such as the Equality Act 2010, The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and British Standards BS 8300, we recommend that all staff (or Responsible Persons) at any given site undergo training to familiarise themselves with the equipment which our Evacuation team initially supervises. We then recommend that refresher courses take place every three months or so internally, in addition to fire drills every six months.

Servicing of your evacuation chairs should occur annually to ensure that equipment remains in pristine condition. Although our evacuation chairs are built to last, it is only natural that some of the material may wear out over time.

Fire safety plans (which are a legal requirement anyway) are another key element of the egress procedure that demands annual review. Due to the obvious financial burden of providing multiple evacuation chairs on every floor, evacuation procedures must be maximised for safety.

However, as an evacuation chair can only serve one individual at a time, providing a Fire safety plan that identifies fire hazards, guidance documents that apply to your facility, outlines procedures that ensure visitors or occupants can be properly alerted, as well as how to reduce risks can greatly minimise the danger before a single evacuation chair is unpacked.

Two evacuation chair engineers showcase how to guide an evacuee down a flight of outdoor stairs with a motorised evacuation chair

In terms of storage, we recommend that evacuation chairs are stored on a wall bracket rather than on the floor, thereby ensuring that the chair avoids accidental displacement by a passer-by and being damaged in the process. This is beneficial and standardised across our range because it minimises the need for maintenance.

It’s not just physically disabled people that require evacuation chairs. A cognitively disabled person, people with short-term injuries, mental health conditions or in heavy stages of pregnancy are all potential users that might not be immediately apparent.

If you want to know more about how to update, maintain or review your evacuation equipment so that it meets requirements set out in UK legislation, get in touch with our team. We can offer a free accessibility audit checklist to give you a greater understanding of accessibility requirements across your entire site, which includes evacuation chairs.

Evacuation Chair in an orange bag hanging on a brick wall next to a stairwell


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