davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Crutches)
[personal profile] davidgillon
A friend just mentioned having done training on using evac chairs, which reminded me of all the shenanigans at work WRT me and evac plans. They're probably worth repeating to prompt everyone to give a little thought to how you would get out of your workplace (or home) in an emergency.

Personally I can do stairs, but because I use crutches I take up a lot of space, and I can be fairly slow moving. OTOH the nature of Hypermobility Syndrome means in a real emergency I'd probably just ditch the crutches and let the pain and damage catch up with me once I'm outside and safe.

Evil Aerospace Inc were fairly good about running fire drills - the rumour was they had to be as they had been told by the fire brigade our warren-like main building would be left to burn in an emergency, it would be too dangerous to send fire-fighters inside. Our office (in a separate building) had a largely open plan area about the size of a football pitch, with several hundred engineers. It was 1st floor (US 2nd floor), but it was an ex-manufacturing building with double height ceilings, so the number of stairs was more like a three storey building. There was one staircase at either end and one in the middle, so call it 100 engineers trying to file out of each.

When we had a fire drill I got into the habit of waiting until the end to start down the stairs, it was just easier than trying to walk with crutches in crowds. Then they got a bit more serious about evacuations and appointed fire wardens for each floor with yearly planning/training sessions. Ours was a good friend of mine, so I was certain my needs would be addressed. After the first training session, she came back and brightly announced:
"Dave, we talked about you, and agreed you have to wait until last to go down the stairs."

Voluntarily waiting until last is one thing, being told to do it is quite another!

"So if you're deciding when I leave the building, then shouldn't I have a formal Personal Emergency Evacuation plan?"

"Oh, no, you're disabled, but you're not that disabled!"

A year rolls around and she goes off to the next planning session.

"Dave, we just had our planning session, and we agreed I can pass you on the stairs to go and report the building is empty."

*Headdesk* *Headdesk* *Headdesk*

Later on I changed teams and was moved to one of our tower blocks, I think I was on the fifth floor - too high for me to manage without using lifts. Despite the fact I was working in QA and we had procedures for everything (and that we had the corporate bosses in the next tower over) no one ever thought to ask if I could manage to get out in an emergency (the answer was yes, just - I stayed behind one night to work out if I could manage the stairs going down).

Moral of the story: corporate attention to fire safety and other evacuation threats (we had at least one bomb scare while I was there that we weren't evacuated for, never mind the suspect device was barely 100m from our office, and a structural failure in our building that took them an unforgiveable four hours to decide to evacuate us) can vary from negligent to overly confident, none of which necessarily implies competent thought has actually gone into it. You are the only person who really understands your accessibility needs, so give some thought to how you would get out of the building if the worst happens, and if management won't address it, then maybe talk to your friends and agree a plan. If you need advice, then I suspect your local fire service can probably advise (they'll definitely prefer finding you outside when they arrive to having to go into a burning building to fetch you), and if there are really egregious safety failures then you may need to consider reporting them to the fire service/Health and Safety Executive/OSHA or local equivalents.

(Also worth remembering, issues won't stop once you're out of the building, you need to get to the evac assembly area, which in most large sites are likely to be 100m or more away, and then get home afterwards. If you need to abandon mobility equipment to get out, particularly wheelchairs if you're taken out on an evac chair, then what happens next? Obviously the ideal would be to have someone bring out your chair/whatever alongside you, but that's only practical if it's safe).

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