Receptionist Training: Safely Evacuating People With A Disability

Evacuation procedures should always consider the possibility that someone may need assistance during a fire evacuation and you should be aware for the eventuality.

In the event of a Fire Evacuation please be aware that there may be less abled people in the building, these may be patients, visitors or staff.

As a Receptionist it will be your duty to ensure that the Reception Area is cleared in the event of a Fire Alarm going off.

Patients that are in with the Doctor or Nurse will be the responsibility of who they are
seeing. They should escort them from their rooms and to the Fire Evacuation Meeting Point.

When planning to assist disabled persons from the building both permanent and
temporary disabilities should be considered.

Permanent Disabilities can include:

  •  Persons in wheelchairs
  • Persons that are Visually Impaired
  • Persons that have Impaired Hearing
  • Some Learning Disabilities
  • Elderly persons with walking aids
  • Elderly persons that may need assistance
  • People with arthritis or other disabilities that can lead to poor mobility.

Temporary Disabilities can include:                             

  • People with sporting injuries
  • People with broken bones (in a cast)
  • People recovering from an operation
  • Pregnant Women
  • People with serve back pain

Or other temporary disabilities

  • People with young children / pushchairs.

Some people may have a disability that is not obvious; this could cause a delay in patients evacuating the  building.


Evacuation may not be necessary or advisable.

If persons with disabilities cannot be transported from the building without using
a lift, assist persons with disabilities to a safe place, this could be in a room behind a Fire Door. Never used a lift when a Fire Alarm has been activated. If this procedure has taken place make sure that the Fire Officer is aware and knows exactly where they are. This usually applies if the disabled person is on the first floor or more.

If immediate evacuation is necessary (the fire is taking hold rapidly) be aware of
the following considerations:


Wheelchairs have many moving parts; some are not designed to withstand stress or lifting. You may need to remove the chair batteries to lessen the weight. Life support
equipment may be attached. In a life-threatening emergency it may be necessary to remove an individual from their wheelchair.

Lifting a person with minimal ability to move may be dangerous. If necessary, two or
three individuals may carry non-ambulatory persons from the building. Wheelchairs should not be used to descend stairwells, if at all possible. Non-ambulatory persons may have respiratory complications. Remove them from smoke or fumes immediately and determine their needs and preferences.

Ways of being removed from the wheelchair

Whether to extend or move extremities when lifting because of pain, catheter leg bags, braces, etc.

Whether to carry forward or backward on a flight of stairs

Whether a seat cushion or pad should be brought along if the wheelchair is being left behind

In lieu of a wheelchair, does the  person prefer a stretcher, chair with cushion/aid, or car seat?

Remember not to block stairwells or exits with Wheelchairs

Is paramedic assistance necessary – if so you may need to request an ambulance as well as the Fire Brigade?



Most visually impaired persons will be familiar with their immediate surroundings.
In an emergency situation:

Describe the nature of the emergency and offer to act as the “sighted guide” –  offer your elbow and escort him/her to a safe place.

As  you walk, describe where you are and advise of any obstacles. Reassure them at all times.

When you have reached safety, orient the person as to where you are and ask if  further assistance is needed. Again reassure them and confirm that they are safe.


Because persons with impaired hearing may not perceive emergency alarms, an alternative
warning technique is required. Two methods of warning:

1.  Write a note describing the emergency and escort them to the nearest evacuation

2.  Turn the light switch off and on to gain their attention. Then indicate through
gestures what is happening and what to do.


Some patients with learning disabilities are often with Carers and they will be able to guide
them to safety. If the Carer has more than one Patient you might need to help them evacuate the building.

We cannot always know if someone has a learning disability as they cope extremely
well with day-to-day situations. But in the event of an emergency it could lead to panic or stress for the patient.

Some people with learning disabilities may come to your organisation on their own, and normally deal with day-to-day issues extremely well. But in the event of an emergency this may cause them to panic – If you see someone who seems to be getting stressed go over  and help them to the Emergency Exit.

Reassure them as much as you can. When they are safely out of the building ask someone to stand with them until it is safe to go back into the building again.


Elderly persons can often get confused; they are slower in their reactions and can
often have medical problems that are not obvious. If you see elderly people in
the reception area guide them towards the Emergency Exit.

Although it is important to get them out of the building as quickly as possibly you will
need to understand they are not going to act as quickly as you.


Pregnant WomanIf a woman is near the end of her pregnancy this could slow her down. She may also have other small children including a buggy with her, so if you identify this please make sure that someone assists her.

 Small Children – Some people may have more than one child with them and often a buggy, it is important that you direct them to the exit. In the event of a lot of people trying to evacuate through one exit it might be necessary to ask them to leave the buggy behind and help them get the small children out safely.

It is important to keep the children calm and not to frighten them in any way.

Sports Injuries – There might be patients in the waiting room with sports injuries; this may include patients that have broken legs, arms, back problems sprains or someone with a walking stick. It may be necessary to assist them from the building.

Generally  Unwell Patients – Patients that are generally unwell might find it difficult in an emergency with all patients if you see someone who is having some difficulties please ask them if they need assistance.

 Don’t be alarmed by the above; these are many Scenarios but hopefully won’t all be in the waiting room all at the same time!!!

Has your workplace got a policy in place for safely evacuating people safely from the building?

Have you got enough signs around your building for an Evacuation Meeting Point”?

Does your organisation have regular Fire Training? Would you know what to do in the event of an Evacuation?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s