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 disabilities. Every person needs to take responsibility for preparing for emergencies, including being aware of evacuation plans (often posted near elevators) and area of refuge signage. People with disabilities should consider what they would do and whether they need to take additional steps to prepare. Average response time for nearby emergency responders is under ten minutes. The full Emergency Response Plan is available via this link to the UMBC Police Emergency Preparedness web page. The following details cover a range of situations:

After an evacuation has been ordered:

  • Always ASK someone with a disability how you can help BEFORE attempting any rescue technique or giving assistance. If they do not need assistance, continue with your own evacuation. If they want assistance, ask how they 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 specific disability-related 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 responders have a short response time and advanced equipment for conveying people to safety from their area of refuge, which is commonly a stairwell, if they are not using a shelter in place location.

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. Consider that you may have to be very direct with the people around you who may be reacting rather than listening to your requests.
  • 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, items on the chair, 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):

  • Ask for or give verbal instructions to advise about safest route or direction using compass or detectable directions, estimated distances, and directional terms. Reliance on personal electronic devices, like smartphones, as navigational aids may not be advisable during rapidly evolving situations.
  • DO NOT grasp a visually impaired person’s arm – it is surprising and can confound their route. Ask if they would like to hold onto your arm as you exit, especially if there is debris or a crowd present.
  • Ask for or give other verbal instructions or information as needed (i.e. the elevators are not responding/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 on a portable electronic device or on paper 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) to enable a disabled person to exit or move 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 in the Emergency Management  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 or first responders can be reached by calling 410-455-5555.

If people would like to leave and an evacuation has been ordered, or if the outage occurs at night, call campus police via  410-455-5555 to request evacuation assistance. Campus police will contact the local Fire Department for specialized support.  With singular or specialized calls, the average response time for campus arrival is 10 minutes.