How Evacuation Chairs Can Be Used at Sports Arenas

 In Blog

There are thousands of sports arenas across North America. Whether they’re smaller spaces used for college football and community softball meets, or major stadiums for big-league events, they have one uniting interest (aside from a love of sports, of course), and that’s the responsibility to keep visitors safe.

Arenas have a goal to get guests and spectators to their seats efficiently and safely pre-game, and similarly out of the arena after an event. This holds true in every eventuality, but especially during an emergency evacuation when employee and visitor safety might be radically endangered.

The legal specifics of safety and accessibility will vary based on where you live. So will the specifics of an Emergency Plan. But there may be evacuation chair laws that mandate arenas to invest in stair chairs as a means of keeping their employees safe.

For example, here in Canada (our home base), there are three laws that cover this area.

  • In Section 125 of the Canada Labour Code, in straightforward terms, it says that employers need to provide a safe route of evacuation for all individuals should an emergency present itself.
  • The Ontario Human Rights Commission says that all individuals have the right to a non-discriminatory workplace and that employers need to make accommodations for those with disabilities.
  • And in the federal government’s ‘Emergency Preparedness Guide for People with Disabilities and Special Needs,’ they advise that every emergency plan should factor in evacuation chairs.

Regardless of legal obligation, at Evacuscape, we firmly believe that a staircase chair is an absolute necessity for a safe, efficient, and calm evacuation in any building with more than one level.

Read on to learn more about the role of evacuation stair chairs and how they can be used at sports arenas and sports stadiums so that every single person is considered.

Reasons a Sporting Venue Might Be Evacuated

There are several reasons a sports venue may need to be evacuated, including but not limited to:

  • a fire,
  • a gas leak,
  • internal human threat — including surging or rioting,
  • external human threat — like a bomb,
  • a structural fault, and
  • an extreme weather event.

There have been numerous occasions where sports arenas and stadiums have been endangered.

  • In 1985 in England, a fire broke out in the supporters stands at the Valley Parade Stadium. There were 56 fatalities, and more than 200 people were injured as a result.
  • At the Heysel Stadium in Brussels in the mid-1980s, 600 people were injured, and 39 others were fatally injured as fan violence erupted in the stands.
  • In 1992 in France, over 2,300 were injured, 18 others fatally so, when the Furiani Stadium collapsed before a soccer semi-final.
  • In 2004, a bomb threat was dialled into a sporting event in Madrid, which held 70,000 spectators. Luckily, every visitor was safely evacuated in eight minutes without incident.
  • In 2010, the roof of the Minnesota Metrodome collapsed following an accumulation of snow that the structure simply could not handle. Fortunately, the stadium was empty at the time, but an evacuation would have been called had a game been in play.
  • In 2015, severe weather prompted the evacuation of the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium, home of the Minnesota Vikings. Initially, supporters were held outside of the arena in the concourse as extreme weather loomed. By the second quarter, lightning moved in and forced a full-scale evacuation of the arena.
  • In 2017, another roof collapsed on a sports arena in the Czech Republic, seeing two competitors taking time out to recover from minor injuries.

As you can see, while the root of the cause varies, the frequency of severe events that warrant an evacuation at sports arenas is actually quite high. Further, the extremity of such incidents is exacerbated by the sheer volume of people at sporting arenas — even at local events.

An ice hockey game. One team wears white, the other dark blue. There are rows of tiered seating with some fans watching; half of the seats are empty.

Population Average at a Sporting Event

The average number of attendees at a sports arena will, of course, vary on the calibre of the team and the location. Regardless, the attendees will likely always be at least one hundred. Let’s look at Toronto for examples of arena size:

  • Mimico Arena holds 800 people.
  • Downsview Community Arena holds 1000 spectators.
  • The Coca-Cola Coliseum holds 7,779 people at capacity.
  • The Scotiabank Arena has 19,900 seats.
  • The Rogers Centre can hold a whopping 49,286 at capacity.

With the above information in mind, setting up for a safe and smooth evacuation where every guest is considered is vital.

Evacuation Chairs in Sports Arenas and Stadiums

Our evacuation chairs enable the safe, quick, dignified, and comfortable evacuation of persons with mobility challenges during an emergency from multi-floor buildings or down external steps, where elevators and escalators may be out of use or without power.

How to Use an Evacuation Chair

Chairs are used on a 1:1 ratio. One person is seated while another trained team member assists. Your evacuation plan should designate individuals who check refuge points for those who require help. We strongly recommend training your staff on how to use stair chairs when you conduct training sessions on evacuation drills. Our chairs are lightweight and easy to use. They also come with a training DVD. Still, it’s well worth taking time the time to practice.

How Many Chairs Do You Need?

It’s generally advised that every floor has an evacuation chair located by the stairwell. Note that this number will likely increase for larger arenas and near spaces that have designated accessible seating areas.

A thorough risk assessment will help ascertain the number required. You can always connect with our team for their insights, too.

How to Maintain a Chair

Our chairs come with an easy-to-remove protective cover that protects them from dust and spills. While our products are simple in design, time should be taken by an on-site safety officer or designated team member to perform routine maintenance for evacuation chairs to make sure they’re in perfect working order. This won’t take much time but can make all the difference should they need to be deployed.

The Takeaway

The approach to guest and employee safety needs to be a multi-pronged, full-spectrum review that looks at visitors’ safety and well-being in every eventuality. Whatever their size, sports arenas are spaces rife with emotion: whether an evacuation is called in response to a crowd surging or an act of God, like an extreme weather event, it’s essential to be prepared.

Reach out today if you’d like information on evacuation chairs for a small-town sports arena, a major venue, or any other entertainment complex — we’re always happy to help.

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