When it comes to the safety and well-being of individuals residing in assisted living facilities, emergency evacuation procedures are of paramount importance. In this blog post, we will summarize EVAC+CHAIR®’s Assisted Living Evacuation Guide. By following these guidelines, staff members and residents can ensure a safe and efficient evacuation process in the event of an emergency.
- The Need for an Evacuation Plan:
Assisted living facilities cater to vulnerable individuals, including the elderly, infirm, and those requiring supported living. Given the unpredictable nature of emergencies such as fires, weather disasters, and even acts of violence, it is crucial to have effective emergency evacuation plans in place. These plans should be designed to accommodate the unique needs of individuals with physical and sensory disabilities, as well as those who may have difficulty understanding or acting quickly in emergency situations.
- Considerations for Individuals with Disabilities:
Historically, evacuation procedures in assisted living facilities have often focused on individuals with disabilities sheltering in place and waiting for first responders to rescue them. However, it is essential to ensure that no one is left behind. Emergency planning should involve comprehensive risk identification and prevention, regular drills to identify and overcome obstacles, and the provision and proper usage of necessary equipment. Additionally, staff members should receive appropriate training to address the needs of residents with disabilities.
- Legal Considerations:
Various legal guidelines and acts govern the evacuation procedures in assisted living facilities. These include NFPA 101, which emphasizes the importance of safer alternative stair descent measures for individuals who cannot use stairs. The United States Access Board requires compliance with the IBC, mandating that evacuation plans address the needs of all occupants, including those with disabilities. The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits discrimination based on disability, while the Americans with Disabilities Act ensures equal opportunities and reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities.
- Planning Considerations:
State and local governments are required to develop emergency preparedness programs for individuals with disabilities and others with access and functional needs. Inclusive planning involves involving representatives from the community, functional needs support service providers, and establishing a multi-agency approach. It is crucial to develop new plans, purchase accessible equipment, establish training schedules, and create long-term recovery working groups that include representation for individuals with disabilities and others with functional needs.
- Evacuation Strategies:
Assisted living facilities employ three main evacuation strategies as part of their emergency procedures:
- Simultaneous Evacuation: This strategy is suitable for small facilities where residents can quickly evacuate to a place of safety. It assumes that all occupants inside the building can evacuate independently and rapidly.
- Horizontal/Progressive Evacuation: This strategy involves moving residents away from the affected area to adjacent protected areas until the fire is controlled or further evacuation is required.
- Delayed Evacuation: In certain circumstances, immediate evacuation may not be practical or desirable, such as when residents have medical conditions or ongoing treatments. In such cases, occupants remain in fire-protected rooms or refuges until the danger has passed or until they can be safely moved.
Ensuring the safety and well-being of residents in assisted living facilities during emergencies requires comprehensive evacuation planning. By following the guidelines outlined in this evacuation checklist, staff members can effectively respond to emergencies and evacuate residents with disabilities or functional needs. It is crucial to involve all stakeholders, comply with legal requirements, and regularly review and update evacuation plans to ensure the highest level of safety for everyone in the facility.