Emergency Evacuation for Persons with Disabilities

This section provides a general guideline of evacuation procedures for persons that may have difficulty exiting during building evacuations. Faculty, staff, students, and visitors with disabilities are expected to consider these options in advance to determine their best response to a building emergency. Assistance is available through EH&S and the University’s Disability Services Office.


Persons with mobility disabilities are encouraged to:

  • Consider evacuation options for each building they occupy.
  • Identify a volunteer who will be responsible to communicate with emergency services on their behalf during a building emergency.
  • Document their evacuation plans on the Evacuation Plan for Persons with Disabilities form and provide it to the building evacuation director who will inform evacuation wardens and retain it for reference.

Evacuation Options

Persons with disabilities have five evacuation options as follows with preferred options listed first:

  • General Evacuation: Use accessible routes to exit the building if the route appears safe. Note that the accessible route may not always be the nearest exit.
  • Horizontal Evacuation: In large buildings and multi-wing complexes such as the Health Science Center, evacuate horizontally to an unaffected wing or area where the alarm is not sounding.
  • Area of Refuge: Move to an area of refuge (also known as Areas of Evacuation Assistance). Many building stairwells with large landings that serve as very good area of refuge. Wait near the exit stairwell until everyone has evacuated the floor and traffic has cleared, then enter. Some buildings have designated areas with stairwells that are signed and equipped with two way communications with University Police. Enclosed elevator lobbies and fire rated exit corridors can also serve as an area of refuge, especially when in close proximity to an exit. For assistance identifying an area of refuge, call EH&S at 206-543-7262.
  • Stay in Place: If evacuation or moving to an area of refuge is not possible, staying in place may be appropriate. An enclosed room with an exterior window, a telephone, and a solid or fire-resistant door may be a good choice. With this option the person may keep in contact with emergency services by dialing 911 and reporting his or her location directly. Emergency services will relay this location to on-site emergency personnel who will determine the necessity for evacuation.
  • Assisted Evacuation Device: In the event of a major earthquake or other campus-wide event that would prevent first responders from responding quickly, an assisted evacuation device, such as a specially designed chair, can be used by trained personnel to evacuate mobility disabled persons.

Elevators can be unsafe to use in an emergency and in most buildings they are automatically recalled to the ground floor. Emergency personnel have special keys to over-ride the elevator functions and can use them to assist with evacuation.

Emergency Procedures

  • Persons with mobility disabilities should evacuate if able, report to an area of refuge (if available), or stay in place in the event of an emergency requiring evacuation or when the building alarm system is activated.
  • If reporting to an area of refuge or staying in place, contact emergency services by calling 911 and inform them of your plans.
  • Volunteers may assist persons with disabilities reach an area of refuge but should evacuate and report to the evacuation assembly point and report to emergency services the location and status of the person with disabilities.
  • The evacuation director should provide any relevant information to emergency services.

Other Disabilities
The information above is primarily to address evacuation for persons with mobility disabilities. Persons with other visual, hearing, cognitive or other disabilities are encouraged to seek counsel and accommodation through the Disability Services Office (206-543-6450).