A combination of discriminatory evacuation regulations and approved evacuation schemes have led to the public in general not being aware of the vulnerability of anyone unable to manage escape routes that include stairs.
Misconception (1) That the various disability support groups, and the disabled community in general are totally happy with the situation as it is.
Wrong! In any emergency all fit and able are compelled to leave as quickly as possible while the most vulnerable are left behind waiting (and hoping) for rescue. Surely the height of discrimination! In reality many disabled, along with other people with injuries or conditions preventing stairwell evacuation feel vulnerable and wary of being in such situations. We are aware of the absolute terror actually felt by a young woman left in such a situation in Chch.
Misconception (2) That Fire and Emergency will be along in time to rescue such ones.
Wrong! Fire and Emergency want buildings totally evacuated as soon as possible hopefully by the time they arrive. They want to be able to to get straight into handling emergency as soon as possible. (a)Rescuing someone takes valuable manpower away from the emergency itself. (b) It can hinder operations by tying up stairwells. (c)Fire and Emergency can not guarantee to be at any emergency in time to effect a rescue. (d)They do not have specialised training in lifting transferring or carrying people with disabilities. (e) They do not have specialised equipment such as Evac+Chair.
Why do they not in general carry Evac+Chairs on their trucks? In the words of one officer. "Because it flags to the community that it is our responsibility to evacuate such ones. It is not, we want buildings totally evacuated when we arrive."
Fire and Emergency recognise the value of Evac+Chair. That it is by far the simplest, safest, smoothest and most dignified dignified method of stairwell evacuation.
We are working on a training program for Fire and Emergency personnel, so Evac+Chairs can be used efficiently, should there be a need, in buildings where they are available.
In a fire, the resources of a city are focused on that building. Help will generally be there in time. In and earthquake resources are spread more thinly. Fire and Emergency focus on priorities. Hospitals, nursing homes, childcare, schools etc. Offices, factories, malls and many other types of buildings are way down the list. (Check our poetic corner out)
Misconception (3) We are not legally responsible to provide such equipment. On the surface this may sometimes seem to be the case. In deed some well meaning Evacuation Consultants have in the past said such things to some of their clients.
Remember a consultant is in some ways like an accountant. To keep his clients tax bill as low as is legally possible. His loyalty is to the client and rightly so. Some evacuation consultants in the past have had a similar approach, endeavoring to keep their clients compliance costs to a minimal.
Our Evacuation Regs in the past have been in total contradiction to our "Human Rights Act" (See our legal page) The new 1917 regs are swinging in the right direction, however loopholes such as grand parented buildings etc still leave huge gaps. In the States several years ago a disabled lass successfully sued one of the huge Chain Store business in the States when she was not evacuated in an emergency.
Legally (and morally) everyone should be able to be evacuated to safety. No on should ever be left behind in a dangerous building or situation.
The “Equality Act” in the UK makes it compulsory for building owners to be able to evacuate “everyone”. Why can’t we simply follow this lead?
Many in our community have simply never thought about it or envisioned themselves in such a situation. Imagine the absolute terror of being left in an eery concrete stairwell hopefully with a volunteer buddy, everyone else has left, warning bells or sirens blaring, just hoping someone will come and rescue you. Yet this is what our current system is forcing on such ones. We would challenge building owners to hand cuff themselves to the banister in the stairwell while everyone else leaves, waiting for someone to arrive with the key. This may help them understand what it would feel like.
Evacuation of building 2018 Regs have improved things slightly but have gone nowhere near far enough.
Another misconception is that “We are quite safe, our fire compartments allow horizontal evacuation, we don’t need to go down stairs.” This may be true in a fire, but we live in the shaky Isles. Ask the Bay of Plenty, and Canterbury District Health Boards about earthquake. In such cases stairwell evacuation becomes a real issue.