Debunking Common Misconceptions About Evacuation Chairs

 In Blog

When you’re establishing your emergency response plan, be it for a place of work or a residential property, the first things that come to mind might be to devise an evacuation route with a supporting map, to make sure first aid kits are available (and well stocked), and to check fire extinguishers.

These are all excellent ideas. But one emergency preparedness tool that should also be factored into your emergency response plan is an evacuation chair. While sometimes overlooked — potentially due to a series of misconceptions — evacuation chairs are essential to an inclusive emergency response plan. They ensure the safe and secure evacuation of persons with mobility challenges down staircases during an emergency where power might have been lost.

But first, in what situations might you need an evacuation chair?

Situations Where an Emergency Evacuation Chair Is Needed

There are a series of emergencies that may require evacuation, including:

  • Fires.
  • Gas leaks.
  • Natural disasters — like earthquakes, tornados, or floods.
  • Human-orchestrated violence.
  • Viral outbreaks.
  • Explosions.
  • Power outages.

With these emergencies in mind, we’ll now explore — and debunk — common misconceptions about evacuation chairs, showcasing the importance of keeping a chair, or chairs, onsite.

I Don’t Need an Evacuation Chair; Nobody on the Property Needs Assistance

Yes, an evacuation chair will help transport physically disabled persons, seniors, and those with mobility issues to a safe zone. However, an emergency chair will also help transport those who have needs that aren’t outwardly apparent.

Some examples of invisible needs include:

  • Pregnant people. When a person is pregnant, their body produces the hormone relaxin. This hormone loosens ligaments in the body, making individuals more susceptible to injury due to a lack of stability. Further, a pregnant person’s ability to descend stairs quickly will be compromised due to excess weight.
  • People with joint issues such as arthritis may experience issues descending the stairs quickly and safely.
  • Those with recently sustained injuries, or injuries that haven’t healed completely — like a broken bone or torn muscle — will be able to descend stairs without aggravating or hurting themselves further.
  • Persons with heart problems or respiratory issues may find the situation and stress alarming. An evacuation chair will help these individuals avoid overexertion.
  • Those with certain mental health conditions might experience panic attacks or even lose consciousness; having an evacuation chair on-hand will help these people remain calm.
  • Lastly, assuming the space is open to the public or clients, you won’t be able to predict who’s visiting each day and know a list of their medical needs or history. Having an evacuation chair is an inclusive consideration for all guests.

So, assuming that there’s nobody in the building who will need an evacuation chair is an extremely dangerous assumption. In fact, there’s a wide array of people who can use an evacuation chair to get to safety.

An upwards shot of a long spiralling brown and white staircase

Ethically, I Have Fulfilled my Duty with the Emergency Preparedness Tools I’ve Already Provided

While providing an evacuation chair isn’t a clear written legal requirement here in Canada, it is recommended as a part of the Canada Labour Code.

Here, in Section 125, it states that every employer shall:

  • (o) comply with prescribed standards relating to fire safety and emergency measures;
  • (p) ensure, in the prescribed manner, that employees have safe entry to, exit from and occupancy of the workplace.

Ultimately, the Canadian Labour Board advises that employers must provide a safe exit in an emergency. For some, a safe and efficient evacuation may be impossible without an evacuation chair.

Further, the Ontario Human Rights Commission states that every employer must make accommodations to help those with disabilities at work.

While preparing for emergencies in traditional ways — providing team training, ensuring batteries are replaced in fire alarms and stocking up on emergency provisions — are fantastic measures, it’s a misconception that this is all that should be done. To many, it’s a clear ethical responsibility to have an evacuation chair (or chairs) onsite.

Evacuation Chairs Are Expensive

Of course, there’s an upfront cost associated with purchasing emergency evacuation stair chairs. However, the upfront costs far outweigh the potential emotional, interpersonal, and liability costs that may come from an unsafe evacuation that discriminates against certain individuals, violating their human rights.

Emergency Response Crews Will Have Assisted Us Before We Need to Use an Evacuation Chair

In an ideal world, emergency crews will be onsite immediately to mitigate disaster and usher everyone to safety. Unfortunately, this isn’t always how emergencies pan out. For this reason, Public Safety Canada advises making accommodations to care for yourself for a minimum of 72 hours.

In cases of a natural disaster where whole towns and cities are affected, and upwards of thousands of people are displaced, emergency response crews will be spread thin, leaving unknown windows of time until you’re assisted.

Fire waits for no one. A fire can turn from a manageable blaze into something unruly in just 30 seconds. To put this into perspective, it takes just five minutes for a house to become completely engulfed. In addition, smoke will fill the space as fast as the flames — and smoke is the number-one cause of fire-related deaths.

With uncertainty in emergency response times, and the speed at which fire (or gas, water, and other elements) can spread, assuming you’ll be catered to quickly by municipal or city services is a delusion. Being able to safely assist persons in the building yourself is paramount to their safe evacuation.

Evacuation Chairs Are Clunky and Heavy

Assuming that evacuation chairs are unmanageable is a simple misconception. Here at Evacuscape, we have two different types of evacuation chairs. Our ec1 model weighs merely 12.5 kg/27.5 lbs. Our ec2 model weighs just 14.5kg/32 lbs., making both easily portable by most able adults. Both are made from lightweight materials, making them easily commutable both in transport mode on flat areas and while descending the stairs.

Take Away

At Evacuscape, we firmly believe that everyone has a right to safety. Don’t let common misconceptions affect your judgment surrounding evacuation chairs. They’re a key tool to an inclusive evacuation plan and a way to instill confidence and peace of mind in your entire team.

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A tower building under construction at sunset. A silhouette of the building with cranes around itA wide lens shot of a modern apartment. A woman in a wheelchair is in the kitchen. She’s wearing a yellow sweater and white pants