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Facilities Planning

Emergency Evacuation of Non-Ambulatory Disabled Individuals


This article provides guidance for developing plans to provide emergency egress for non-ambulatory disabled individuals who may be on floors above or below the level of exit discharge. While recent code revisions address the need for areas of refuge in new construction, existing buildings are specifically exempted from this requirement. Therefore, the following information pertaining to emergency egress and fire drill procedures for non-ambulatory disabled persons is advisory only and represents the Department’s best assessment of how to deal with this very important responsibility. It remains the obligation of the reader to ensure that any management plan adheres to all applicable statutes, rules, and regulations.

It is recommended that each school district adopt the following procedures within its school emergency management plan for all student-occupied facilities:

  1. A written plan should be in place that addresses the needs of non-ambulatory disabled individuals on floor levels above and below grade during any emergency that necessitates relocating these individuals, including fire incidents and fire drills. Plan development should include, at a minimum, disabled individuals, building administrators and staff, parent(s) or guardian(s) of the disabled individual, and the emergency response/fire service personnel charged with responding to any emergency incident.
  2. Once the plan has been developed, it should be incorporated into the district emergency management plan.
  3. On floors above and below grade level, consideration should be given to moving disabled individuals to a central location, or safe area, on the floor of occupancy. Consideration should be given to assigning one or two individuals to each disabled person charged with the responsibility of moving the disabled person to a safe area during an emergency incident or drill. Individuals assigned to disabled persons should be aware of the location of their charges at all times. Furthermore, individuals accepting this serious responsibility should be provided with some minimum level of training.
  4. The local emergency response/fire service organization must be aware of the safe area and understand fully its responsibility to retrieve non-ambulatory disabled individuals from designated safe areas.
    • Emergency response/fire service personnel should be participants in the selection of safe areas.
    • Emergency response/fire service personnel should be aware of the physical characteristics of safe areas.
    • At least once during each school year, emergency response/fire service personnel should participate in a drill that involves responding to the needs of disabled persons in safe areas.

During all emergency/fire drills, non-ambulatory disabled individuals should be full participants. All actions necessary to move disabled individuals to safe areas should be practiced as part of each drill. It is understood that full evacuation of these individuals is required during an actual emergency. School administrators must discuss evacuation procedures with non-ambulatory disabled individuals and their parent(s) or legal guardian(s) in order to determine the level of participation required during "drills." School officials, emergency response personnel, disabled individuals, and the parent or legal guardian should agree upon any variation from full participation during drills in writing.

Questions regarding school emergency planning and fire safety issues may be directed to the Office of Facilities Planning at or (518) 474-3906.