In Case of Emergency: A Case Study on Evacuation Procedures for a Student with a Mobility Impairment

DO-IT Factsheet #198
http://www.washington.edu/doit//articles?198

Background

Dan is a sophomore living on the fourth floor of Johnson Hall. He has paraplegia and uses a wheelchair.

Access Issue

Dan had a concern about a recent fire drill that occurred in his residence hall. On the night of the drill, he was not notified. He saw the flashing signs and heard the alarm and assumed it was an actual fire. He was distressed because during the entire drill, no one came to assist him. When he reported his concerns to dorm staff, they showed little interest.

Solution

Dan called his counselor at the disabled student services office and explained the situation and his concerns. The disabled student services counselor contacted the residence hall director to inquire about the residence hall procedures for a fire drill. There were no evacuation policies or procedures in place. The disabled student services counselor worked with the campus housing office and the residence hall director to establish a policy that required the identification of a common area on each floor where people with disabilities should gather in case of an emergency and to establish evacuation procedures to protect the students. All of the residence assistants, as well as the local police and fire authorities, were informed of this policy and procedure.

Conclusions

This case study illustrates the following:

  1. Emergency and evacuation procedures for students with disabilities need to be established in residence halls and other campus buildings in conjunction with local police and fire departments.
  2. Housing staff should be informed about residence hall emergency and fire evacuation procedures.
  3. Students with disabilities should be familiar with campus emergency and evacuation routes and procedures and make their specific needs known to appropriate housing staff.