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le_inferno's avatar

What do people in wheelchairs do when there's a fire or fire drill?

Asked by le_inferno (6184points) September 26th, 2010

Obviously you can’t use elevators in either scenario. Let’s say a person in a wheelchair is on the 17th floor of an office building, how is he or she going to get down?

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8 Answers

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

I’ve worked in several hotels, and the employees were trained to make a note of anyone checked in that is in a wheelchair. If it was a fire drill, we notified all of the guests and meeting room attendants in advance. (While some were annoyed, we usually got positive feedback for practicing.)

Only once in my career did an actual fire alarm go off when someone in a wheelchair was in-house. The front desk clerk immediately called the room to let them know what was happening and asked if they needed assistance in evacuating. She then sent one of the male managers on duty up to the guest’s room and backed the person down 10 or more flights of stairs.

I would hope that any building that had more than a ground floor would be proactive enough to put a plan in place. And if I used a wheelchair, I’d ask about it.

rangerr's avatar

We’ve been at a hotel during a fire drill with my sister who is in a wheelchair.
We had the option of backing her down the stairs or using an evacuation wheelchair which was designed to slide down stairs safely/easier. We decided to switch her over to the other chair because hers was entirely too bulky/heavy even if we would have gotten assistance to try and move down the stairs.

I would assume that in an office setting, if there were no other modes of getting the person down the stairs, coworkers would have to find a way to lift the wheelchair which is actually pretty dangerous, as wheelchairs aren’t meant to be lifted down to safety. If that’s not possible, or the person is alone for whatever reason, the best option would be to alert rescue crews to their or your own presence and let them get them out.

Like @Pied_Pfeffer said, I’d really hope the office had a plan. Or wouldn’t put them on the 17th floor to begin with.

TexasDude's avatar

You know those big landings in stairwells?

You roll your wheelchair in there and “wait for instruction from officials” which usually means someone will come to get you.

YARNLADY's avatar

Most hotels I have stayed in have all the handicapped rooms on the first floor. A wheel-chair guest would only be put in an upper floor room in case of a sold out night.

When we needed an emergency motel room at 10 am, we were put in a handicapped room that had been vacant for several days, and only required minimal clean up.

SuperMouse's avatar

My boyfriend who is in a wheelchair jokes and says we would hold each other and hope for the best. I must say that @rangerr‘s statement about evacuation wheelchairs being available made me feel better about what might happen in a hotel fire! I would also wonder if someone could physically carry the disabled person down the stairs to safety. The empty chair would be easy to get down the stairs. My man uses a manual chair, a power chair might be a different story.

Kind of off topic – but also apropos: In his book Moving Violations, John Hockenberry tells the story of being in a hotel room in Israel when there was some kind of rocket attack if I remember it was during the first Gulf war. He made his way to the basement where there was a safe room. When he got to the door it was sealed shut but he could see inside and those inside could see him. No one opened the door for him. He headed back up to his room and filed the story, scooping the heartless jerks my words not Hockenberry’s who didn’t think it was worth opening the door for a guy in a wheelchair.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@SuperMouse Yes, some people with a walking disability could be carried down a stairwell, but it is going to depend upon the people involved. In the US, laws to accommodate people with disabilities are more likely to get passed with the aid of the ADA (American Disabilities Association). Until they are go into effect, it is unlikely to happen.

Evacuation wheelchairs, at least the couple that I have seen, might be helpful, but are slow. They are expensive to purchase, install and probably maintain. My guess is that it would be cheaper to build or renovate a building to accommodate a hotel room or office on the first floor.

@YARNLADY I’ve inspected hundreds of hotels, and only a few have had all handicapped rooms on the 1st floor. Maybe you just haven’t noticed this. Handicapped rooms are typically designed for a variety of disabilities. They are wheelchair accessible and include a lighted alarm system for people with a hearing disability. I think that all hallway signs are now required to be in braille, or at least upon upgrade.

Wheelchair accessible rooms are typically the last to be rented for two reasons. 1.) People do not make an advance reservation for one unless they need it. 2.) People without a disability do not like to stay in one. We have received a few complaints about being placed in one by people who showed up without a reservation at night, and that was all that was available. My only guess as to why is because the bathrooms are configured differently, like a roll-in shower instead of a tub.

YARNLADY's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer You could be right. The only handicapped rooms I have stayed in were on the first floor. I prefer handicapped rooms because they are nearly always bigger, but I hesitate to ask for one since I wouldn’t want to deprive anyone who really needed it.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@YARNLADY I’ve never had a problem staying in a handicapped room either. The rooms are not typically larger, other than the bathroom. And most are set up with two double beds in case they have a friend traveling with them. I’m not sure why, but assume that studies/surveys have been done on this.

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