The most likely persons to fall victim of a fire are the elderly and disabled, which is why when creating a fire safety plan those vulnerable people must be taken into consideration. This is especially the case if you own a business, or manage a property, as there are requirements that need to be met by law.
Common Fire Safety Questions
Who is fire safety for? Everyone. Who is responsible for fire protection in Toronto? We all play our part, in any situation. For those that are legally liable, though, there are other factors to consider.
Where are your fire extinguishers located? Are they easy to reach for someone who is wheelchair bound, or below the average height? If there are guests, or residents, that are mobility impaired how will they be able to exit safely? What about people with heart conditions, arthritis, or asthma? Those who may be suffering from PTSD, or have Alzheimer’s or autism?
Consider those who may have a vision impairment. Are doors wide enough for wheelchairs and walking frames to fit through? How will you keep track of which residents have special needs? What if a resident has had a change in their mobility or ability?
What could go wrong for residents who may not have considered what impairment could occur until an emergency situation triggers it, for instance: an asthma sufferer having an attack due to smoke inhalation, and being unable to exit without assistance.
What process have you put in place to ensure that everyone is able to evacuate safely, and confirmation that everyone’s safety needs have been considered and met?
Emergency Evacuation Plan
Another consideration, as identified by AODA Compliance & Training’s Nicole Cormier, people may have similar disabilities but they may need different levels, or types, of support. The best way to build a plan is to consult residents, or employees, with disabilities on their personal emergency evacuation plan (PEEP).
Consider how technology can benefit you in an emergency situation, for instance: for deaf persons a strobe light alarm will serve as an excellent visual cue. For those with mild to severe hearing loss consider a special alarm that emits low pitched sounds. There are also bed shakers, vibrating pillow pads and vibrating pagers.
Visual impairments? Remember that they rely on their hearing and a constant alarm can be disorienting. You can use an alternating sequence that pauses between cycles, this will allow them to hear instructions. You can also employ the use of Braille on exit paths. Don’t have furnishing that have been moved regularly in the path which could lead to confusion.
Don’t forget the traditional emergency methods, ensure that emergency lighting is sufficient, and whether doors could be too heavy.
In a residence it’s important to ensure that you the evacuation plans and procedures have been adequately communicated to residents. If your building doesn’t have a fire sprinkler system, then install one. Make a detailed plan for your residents with special requirements.
In the workplace, it is vital to train your employees on the evacuation procedures and hold regular fire drills to ensure that your plan works and that your staff know their roles. If circumstances change then update your plan.
You need to make considerations for disabled employees, and if you don’t have any you should still have a plan of action for any visitors or guests that may have a disability. Each employee should be aware of what is expected of them in the event of a fire evacuation.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has more information here, which can assist you in creating an evacuation plan for people with disabilities.