Mythbusting PEEPs #3: “You always need a buddy”

A PEEP is not just for people with mobility impairments. Neither does every disabled person need a buddy.

Four painting rollers painting green, red , orange and blue on a wall
Careful use of colour can massively improve accessibility

We asked Elspeth Grant, an expert in creating PEEPs, for a quick list of interventions contained in effective PEEPs that she has seen which do not involve a buddy:

  • Deaf or hearing loss: under-pillow vibrating pillow, door knock alert system, radio doorbells and assistance dogs
  • Visually impairments: use of colour to assist navigation of escape route, contrasting nosings and handrails, emergency lighting following the escape route and assistance dogs
  • Learning disabilities: voice recording fire alarms and regular practice
  • Autistic spectrum: reducing fire alarm levels and noise reducing headphones
  • Arthritis/older people: minimum pressure of doors to ensure closure (including hold-opens that close on fire alarm) and easy to open door handles
  • Everyone: clear instructions, water mist systems to reduce risk of fire and intelligent fire alarm which monitors if fire alarm triggered frequently
A stairwell in darkness, with a green glow-in-the-dark effect system that highlights door edges and signage
Emergency lighting is often high up where smoke usually diminishes its efficiency. This lighting and wayfinding system is via Lite4Life.

Sometimes, physical support from another person is needed but this doesn’t need to be massive drama. Too many disabled people are being denied a PEEP because they need support yet their landlord or agent won’t even discuss how this might work.

Phil Murphy, HRRB Fire Safety Consultant, says it’s wrong to assume that only employees can fulfill the role of a Trained Evacuation Assistant (TEA) and that, in fact, most people with a basic level of fitness can be trained in a couple of hours. “Research has proven beyond all doubt that helping each other in emergencies is what people instinctively do. Partners, live-in relatives, carers and neighbours are all most often very willing and able to be TEAs. Using the excuse that no employees are present is a poor one and, having been proved false, it is no longer acceptable.”

1980s cast photo from the TV show 'Neighbours
When good neighbours become good friends

Sarah is a wheelchair user living on the 13th floor of her block of flats where she has been told that the fire-fighting lift is defective and cannot be used for evacuation. Although she is supported by assistants on a 24-hour basis, they sometimes need to leave her to pop to the shop or just go outside for a break. She was touched when neighbours asked if they could be trained to use her evacuation chair, just in case her assistant gets fatigued, needs support or is out. “I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised,” she says “as our block is a vertical village. When it’s snowing, I get texts from neighbours I rarely see asking if I need milk or anything. It makes sense that we naturally look out for one another in an emergency”.

If you agree that everyone who cannot self-evacuate deserves the opportunity to talk through their options of how to escape a fire in their block, please respond to the Government consultation by 19 July 2021.

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