The LWF Blog

Fire Safety for Facilities Management Personnel – Means of Escape for Disabled People – Part 137

February 21, 2022 1:17 pm

Lawrence Webster Forrest (LWF) is a specialist fire engineering and fire risk management consultancy whose aim is to give information on best practice in fire safety for facilities management personnel through this blog series. In part 136, LWF began to consider means of escape from the point of view of making provision for people with disabilities. In part 137, we will continue to discuss means of escape for people with disabilities.

In order to help facilitate safe and efficient evacuation from a building in which a fire has started, a business or organisation may organise a system whereby nominated members of staff are responsible for assisting in the evacuation of any persons with disabilities. It should be noted that when discussing evacuation of disabled persons, in this context, we are concentrating in the main on physical disabilities that restrict independent movement.

One example of a system for evacuating disabled persons from a building is the ‘buddy’ system which involves a nominated person partnering with a designated disabled person who works in the vicinity. The nominated person is responsible for assisting the disabled person to effect their evacuation and the advantage of such a system is that any absences of either partner will be noted by the other. Equally, working together will help develop confidence that the rehearsed procedures can be carried out in a real fire situation.

It is necessary when using the ‘buddy’ system to have a suitable amount of deputies who are able to step in if the original able-bodied partner is absent. The deputies must also be aware of their responsibilities and have had a chance to work through the procedures with the disabled person.

A disadvantage to this system is that it could restrict the movements of the disabled person within the building. If the disabled person needs to visit another part of the building, this would mean moving away from the area where their able-bodied counterpart is working. For this reason, it may be necessary when using the ‘buddy’ system to also train all fire wardens in the safe evacuation of mobility-restricted persons.

Helpers may be trained to carry wheelchair users in their chairs, however, most motorised wheelchairs are too heavy for this to be practical. A possible workaround for situations where the wheelchairs are not portable is to provide designed for purpose evacuation chairs in which the disabled person can be seated prior to evacuation.

In part 138 of this series, LWF will continue to discuss the evacuation of disabled persons by considering the use of refuges. In the meantime, if you have any queries about your own facilities or wish to discuss this blog series, please contact LWF on freephone 0800 410 1130.


Lawrence Webster Forrest is a fire engineering consultancy based in Surrey with over 25 years’ experience, which provides a wide range of consultancy services to professionals involved in the design, development and construction and operation of buildings.

While care has been taken to ensure that information contained in LWF’s publications is true and correct at the time of publication, changes in circumstances after the time of publication may impact on the accuracy of this information.




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