Campus Evacuation Procedures for People with Disabilities

The following guidelines have been adopted by the University to assist in planning for the evacuation of people with physical disabilities. Every person needs to take responsibility for preparing for emergencies. People with disabilities should consider what they would do and whether they need to take additional steps to prepare.

After an evacuation has been ordered:

  • Always ASK someone with a disability how you can help BEFORE attempting any rescue technique or giving assistance. Ask how he or she can best be assisted or moved, and whether there are any special considerations or items that need to come with the person.
  • Evacuate people with disabilities if possible.
  • DO NOT use elevators, unless authorized to do so by police or fire personnel. Elevators could fail during a fire or major earthquake.
  • If the situation is life threatening UMBC police will request paramedics.
  • Check on people with special needs during an evacuation. A “buddy system”, as a method to arrange for volunteers (co-workers/neighbors) to alert and assist people with disabilities in an emergency, is a good method.
  • Attempt a rescue evacuation ONLY if you have had rescue training or the person is in immediate danger and cannot wait for professional assistance.

Emergency Preparedness Guidelines for People with Disabilities:

  • Make your environment fire safe (make sure your exit route is clear).
  • Keep sufficient emergency supplies to last three days (include food, water, prescription medicines and any other supplies you might need).
  • Become familiar with alternate routes in buildings you use frequently.
  • Learn what may constitute a safe area in buildings you use frequently.
  • Consider various disaster scenarios and decide ahead of time what you would do in different emergencies.
  • If these “Emergency Procedures” guidelines do not apply to you, develop other strategies for your protection. For example, if you use a wheelchair and cannot duck and cover under a table:
      • Protect your head as much as possible
      • Move away from windows, filing cabinets, bookcases, light fixtures, and heavy objects that could shatter, fall, or tip over
      • Engage the electronic brake or wheel locks on your wheelchair.
  • People with power wheelchairs should consider the following:
    • In evacuations, it is standard practice to evacuate disabled people without their wheelchairs. Where should you be located while waiting for your wheelchair?
    • Are there certain medications or support systems that you need?
    • Do you have access to another wheelchair if yours cannot be evacuated?
    • Know your limitations and be aware of your needs in different emergencies.
    • If you need assistance, ask for it. People may not be aware of your circumstances or know how they can help.
    • Consider how people will give you emergency information and how you will communicate your needs if you have impaired speaking, hearing, or sight.
    • Consider arranging a buddy system with friends or colleagues so that someone will check with you, alert you as necessary, and see whether you need any assistance.
    • If you need to be evacuated, help yourself and rescuers by providing them with information about your needs and the best ways to assist you.

Blindness or Visual Impairment (Bomb Threat, Fire, Hazardous Materials Releases, and Power Outages):

  • Give verbal instructions to advise about safest route or direction using compass directions, estimated distances, and directional terms.
  • DO NOT grasp a visually impaired person’s arm. Ask if he or she would like to hold onto your arm as you exit, especially if there is debris or a crowd present.
  • Give other verbal instructions or information (i.e. the elevators cannot be used).

Deafness or Hearing Loss (Bomb Threat, Fire, Hazardous Materials Releases, and Power Outages):

  • Get the attention of a person with a hearing disability by touch and eye contact. Clearly state the problem. Gestures and pointing are helpful, but be prepared to write a brief statement if the person does not seem to understand.
  • Offer visual instructions to advise of safest route or direction by pointing toward exits or evacuation maps.

Mobility Impairment (Bomb Threat, Fire, and Hazardous Materials Releases):

  • It may be necessary to help clear the exit route of debris (if possible) so that the person with a disability can move out or to a safer area.
  • If people with mobility impairments cannot exit, they should move to a safer area, e.g.:
      • Most enclosed stairwells
      • An office with the door shut which is a good distance from the hazard (and away from falling debris in the case of earthquakes).


  • If you do not know the safer areas in your building, call the Building Manager as designated through this plan.
  • Notify police or fire personnel immediately about any people remaining in the building and their locations.
  • Police or fire personnel will decide whether people are safe where they are, and will evacuate them as necessary. The Fire Department may determine that it is safe to override the rule against using elevators.
  • If people are in immediate danger and cannot be moved to a safer area to wait for assistance, it may be necessary to evacuate them using an evacuation chair or a carry technique.

Mobility Impairment (Power Outages):

  • If an outage occurs during the day and people with disabilities choose to wait in the building for electricity to be restored, they can move near a window where there is natural light and access to a working telephone. During regular building hours, Building Managers should be notified so they can advise emergency personnel.
  • If people would like to leave and an evacuation has been ordered, or if the outage occurs at night, call the campus police at X 5-5555 from a campus telephone to request evacuation assistance. The campus police will contact the Fire Department.