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Fire Safety for Wheelchair Users


This guide should help you understand fire safety protocols while in a wheelchair. Having an understanding of the special evacuation protocol in case of a fire can improve the chance that people with limited mobility and emergency responders can evacuate individuals and save lives.

Conventional fire safety plans do not include instructions and safety protocol for limited mobility individuals, as they do not take into account the fact that each person has a unique set of circumstances, which can include varying conditions, and proper living facilities with fire safety protocols catered to that individual.

The main reason for this type of fire safety for wheelchair users is to get the limited mobility individual to a safe area where they are taken out of the immediate fire area and placed into a refuge that can keep them safe until they are able to be transported out of the building.



Wide Exit Stairs

Normally exit stairs can be legally as narrow as 28 inches wide, for this reason it is important to know how big the exit stairs in your living quarters, or job site are to know if they are wider than normal exits. Ideally, wide exit stairs should be 48 inches wide without counting the hand rails(if applicable), this would allow room for 2-3 emergency responders to move through that exit without problems arising when carrying a limited mobility individual out of a building.

Conventional building protocol requires building owners to have at least 2 exits within the building to promote fire safety and natural disaster damage prevention. This would be the bare minimum as far as exits go, building owners would be smart to plan out more than two exits. A single exit is permitted in certain low hazard occupancy, depending on the size of the building and the current population within it, more doorways and stair exits may be required by law.


Pre-Fire Conditions

It is very important to gather information regarding local emergency responders in your area, this will allow you to be familiar with their protocols, this will also allow them to keep you in mind when it comes to an evacuation of your building. Developing an evacuation plan would be ideal for pre-fire conditions, this would allow an individual to follow the correct procedure for exiting a building that is on fire.



Fire Department Fire Safety for Wheelchair Users

It is very important to be familiar with the emergency responders in your city or community, so that they are aware of your potential emergency situation at all times. Meeting with fire department officials every year would be ideal towards minimizing injury and injury related deaths, as they would be up to date as far as what your necessary preparedness and response may be. Your local fire department will advice you to practice your evacuation plan at least once a month to condition you to be prepared when a real fire occurs.



Heat and Smoke Detectors

Heat and smoke detectors are required in every household because they reduce the chance of dying in a house/building fire by about 60%. This is a general guideline for any individual living indoors, these devices are important to have in your living quarters and it is always imperative to make sure that all of your smoke alarms are working properly.

People sometimes forget that heat and smoke detectors must be kept cleaned and free of dust and debris regularly, as they may prevent the device from functioning properly during an emergency situation. Included in the regular maintenance is the replacement of the batteries inside these detectors so that they are working at an optimal level whenever a detection occurs.

Another important detector to have in your house is a carbon dioxide detector. There have been many cases where an individual dies from carbon dioxide poisoning because the compound is detected too late as it is not visible to the naked eye. Carbon dioxide is an odorless and colorless chemical compound that is produced by combustion, the compound is lethal when it is at a high concentration.



Fire Extinguisher Use

In some emergency situations, even with planning and preparedness, emergency responders may delay past the amount of time you have to get out of the building, or not be able to enter the building at all under certain conditions. This would mean that your life is in your hands, you need to know how to use a fire extinguisher for this extreme reason. Even though you should know how to use a fire extinguisher anyways, a person with limited mobility may only have the options of using the fire extinguisher, without having other options.



Employer Fire Safety for Wheelchair Users

Any and all employers should review their evacuation protocol on yearly basis, this would allow them to be up to date with any updated regulations and instructions. While updating and reviewing their evacuation plans would be important, it is also important to practice and include drills so that every employee is also up to date with fire precautions and instructions.



Consistent Wheelchair Maintainance

While many of the tips included above should be prioritized, this is equally as important as all of the above, your chair should be in great shape and tuned up on a monthly basis. A proper wheelchair tune up should be performed as it would help prevent any type of problems that may arise during an emergency situation. Your wheelchair or piece of equipment should be able to handle the stress and movement that may occur during an emergency situation.


More Information

 State Accessibility Laws

Fire Safety - Spinal Cord Injury

How To Adapt Your Workplace For Employees Who Use Wheelchairs

How to Maintain your Manual Wheelchair

ADA Resources in the Workplace



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