A Fire Escape Guide For Visually Impaired Or Blind People
Laws and Regulations
According to the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, if you own or manage a commercial building you are responsible for ensuring fire risks and hazards are reduced or removed as far as possible. A huge part of reducing the threat of fire involves undertaking regular, comprehensive Fire Risk Assessments and these include planning thorough evacuation plans to make the process of an emergency evacuation as simple, safe and efficient as possible.
Emergency evacuation plans involve taking into account the needs of each individual within your environment and this means catering to any disabilities your employees may have. This piece of legislation is backed up by various regulations referring to disability discrimination in the workplace.
For example, both the Disability Discrimination Act (1995) and the Disability Equality Duty state that plans should be put in place to make sure anyone with a disability can exit the building safely, with anything less being a form of discrimination.
Planning an Evacuation Procedure
When planning an evacuation procedure for someone who is blind or visually impaired, the most important thing to consider is how they will safely and successfully exit the building. This means providing appropriate signage and orientation clues so they are able to find and follow the escape route.
Good colour definition and accessible signage will be hugely beneficial in the event of an emergency, as will things such as handrails and step edge markings on escape stairs. Additionally, fire safety signage featuring Braille or audible signs can be installed.
In some environments, and depending on the individual concerned, assistance may be necessary in the event of an evacuation. In this instance, the ‘responsible person’ has a duty to arrange for assistance to be provided and must also arrange for any fire safety training which is required as a result.
Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan (PEEP)
When planning an evacuation for someone with a disability, it is commonly referred to as a PEEP (Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan). A PEEP is an evacuation plan which is completely personal to the named individual, taking into account their specific disability, related requirements, location within the building and method of evacuation.
Evacuation Procedure Checklist for Visually Impaired
When constructing a PEEP for someone who is blind or visually impaired, it is vital to consider the following:
- What type of alarm system do you use?
- Are your escape routes clearly and adequately marked?
- Is there appropriate orientation information?
- Are fire instructions available in various formats?
- Are there step edge markings on the escape stairs?
- Are there handrails on the escape stairs?
- Are step-risers closed off?
Additionally, the ‘responsible person’ must ensure the following questions have been asked and are incorporated into the individual’s PEEP:
- Do you work alone in the building?
- Do you work out of hours?
- Are you aware of the positions of all of the escape routes?
- Can you escape routes unaided?
- Do you require assistance in an evacuation?
- Do you work as part of a team or group?
- Can you read the evacuation instructions and fire safety signage? If not, what format do you require them in?