Appendix 14: Evacuation Procedures for Persons with Disabilities

Before an Emergency Occurs

The University requires that all faculty, students, and employees register with cAlert, the University’s electronic emergency-notification system. This system enables University officials to reach members of the University community by rapidly transmitting short notifications by email to any outside email address, by text message to a cell phone, by fax, or by voice message to an off-campus telephone or cell phone. For students, faculty, and staff who have not yet done so, please visit the University of Chicago’s cAlert webpage to enter your contact information.

It is extremely important that individuals who require a non-auditory “alert” submit a Self-Identification Questionnaire and sign up for cAlert. Those individuals with hearing impairments residing in campus housing are also urged to self-identify for the purpose of securing visual alarms to alert the individual in the event of an emergency.

Any person with a disability who will need assistance during an emergency evacuation and might be in a building after regular work hours, or at times when others are not usually present, should also strongly consider notifying the University Police of their location including the building, floor, room, and time of arrival and departure.

During an Emergency

Individuals with communication disabilities may be unable to obtain necessary evacuation information from standard auditory fire alarms or public address systems. As a consequence, hearing and visually impaired individuals may need to be alerted and given further instruction in emergency situations by Rescue Assistants or others. Nearby rescue assistants, faculty, staff, or students should also offer assistance to visually impaired individuals who may need help negotiating unfamiliar routes during an emergency evacuation.

During an emergency, the Chicago Fire Department and University Police shall attempt to check all locations, including restrooms, to communicate the need to evacuate. If forced to stay in place during an emergency, the person with a disability should attempt to contact the University Police at extension 123 or 773.702.8181 to notify them of his or her location, in addition to asking others who are evacuating to alert the University Police. The University Police shall then dispatch an officer to the location to assist with the evacuation. Please stay on the line with the dispatcher until the University Police arrive.

It is strongly recommended that persons with disabilities acquire additional alerting devices to draw attention to themselves during an emergency. Cell phones, pagers, and loud whistles are effective tools for drawing attention or for contacting emergency personnel.

Evacuation Procedures

Personal evacuation plans shall serve as the first-line of defense to ensure the safety of individuals with disabilities. The following provides further guidance for emergency procedures for persons with disabilities. However, this information is not meant to replace the proper planning and training included in a personal emergency plan.

University procedures require all persons, including those with disabilities, to evacuate a facility anytime the fire alarm system is activated or otherwise instructed to do so. Depending upon the facility and type of disability, a person with disabilities may have the following evacuation options:

  • Horizontal evacuation (e.g., going from one building into a connected, adjacent building on the same level);
  • Vertical (e.g., stairway) evacuation (towards the ground floor of the building);
  • Proceeding to an Area of Rescue Assistance or Priority Rescue Area to await evacuation; or
  • Staying in place to await evacuation (e.g., office, classroom, dormitory room).

Note: Elevators are never to be used in the event of a fire without explicit authorization by fire or police personnel. Further, stairway evacuations of individuals who use wheelchairs may be hazardous to disabled individuals, rescuers, and others attempting to evacuate and should not be attempted by untrained personnel. Individuals with mobility impairments who are able to walk independently or with assistance may be able to negotiate stairs. However, if danger is imminent, the individual should wait until heavy traffic has cleared before attempting the stairs.

Move to an Area of Rescue Assistance or Priority Rescue Area

Individuals with mobility impairments may not be able to exit a building without help from fire, police, or other emergency personnel. Persons who are unable to evacuate should await evacuation assistance in designated rescue locations such as an Area of Rescue Assistance or Priority Rescue Area.

Individuals who have self-identified shall be notified of any Areas of Rescue Assistance or Priority Rescue Areas in buildings they may occupy or frequent, and they should acquaint themselves with the locations of these areas in other campus buildings. A master list of Areas of Rescue Assistance and Priority Rescue Areas shall be located in the Fire Department Information Center in the lobby of each building and on the website for Environmental Health and Safety. Environmental Health and Safety can also be consulted about the locations of Priority Rescue Areas in each building and shall update this information annually or as needed.

Stay in Place

In circumstances where evacuation is not possible and relocation to an Area of Rescue Assistance or Priority Rescue Area is not practical (e.g., pathway impeded), it is recommended that a person with a disability stay in place (e.g., office, dormitory room, classroom). It is the responsibility of every member of the University community to immediately communicate to the University Police and emergency personnel the location of individuals unable to evacuate. In addition, the person with disabilities should be reminded to telephone University Police (123 from campus phone or 773.702.8181 from cell phone) immediately to further ensure that on-site emergency personnel will receive the information as soon as possible.

For detailed information, refer to the Emergency Evacuation Procedures for Persons with Disabilities.