School Safety

When there is an emergency within a school, teachers and fire marshals work to get children out as fast as possible. Yet a child or young person in a wheelchair could be left at the stairwell while their friends have left the building. Therefore, emergency evacuation for schools must consider procedures for children of all physical capabilities.

Schools and School Districts need to consider how they can aid the relocation of all students, staff, and visitors to a suitable safe location. In buildings with multiple floors, lifts are often grounded for Fire Department use and may be inoperable. A Direct Access Evacuation Chair enables fast and rapid evacuation downwards in a school emergency from fire, terror, or other incidents as people transfer to a chair able to descend stairs. Designed by people with disabilities for people with disabilities, the Direct Access evacuation range with vibrant orange and black colors provides reassurance for young people in high tension situations, particularly as the orange colors are associated with life preservers as seen on ships.

As schools update their emergency plans throughout the school year, they need to consider both students with disabilities and those with temporary injuries. Sheltering in place while waiting for first responders might not be the safest or best option. Therefore, developing personalized evacuation plans should be part of any student’s Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) or 504 plan and attached accordingly. The plan must include the equipment, training requirements of the evacuee and operators, alongside full risk identification and mitigation.

Where there are visitors with disabilities, an arrival registration process will enable school administrators and staff to find and help visitors when required. These may include deaf persons who may not hear the alarm or blind and visually impaired visitors with Guide Dogs that may have orientation difficulties in an emergency.

Relevant legislation: Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Americans with Disabilities Act 1990

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