There is a whole range of reasons why people may not be able to self-evacuate. A mobility impairment is just one.
There are over 14 million disabled people in the UK. That’s one in five of us. One in five of us are not wheelchair users. Other impairments will include hearing and sight, learning disability, being neurodivergent and mental health conditions. In fact, it is estimated that that 80% of disabilities are ‘hidden’, for example anxiety and epilepsy.
Questions that help us to consider if a person can self-evacuate include:
- Can you hear the alarm?
- Do you understand what that sound means?
- Can you safely descend stairwells?
This will be particularly relevant to blind and Deaf people, those with learning disabilities or anyone who takes a little longer to process information.
We also need to remember those who are temporarily disabled, such as following surgery or an injury. A resident may be laying in bed in their flat for many weeks in a plaster cast.
46% of pension age adults are disabled. Age and disability overlap as many impairments are often linked with age, such as arthritis and hearing loss. It’s important to remember that many older people living with impairments do not consider themselves to be ‘disabled’. Like disabled people, older people must be encouraged to reflect on their ability to self-evacuate in discussions which are tactful, sensitive and give no suggestion that they cannot live independently. Otherwise it may be distressing and end in the person abandoning the process.
Finally, the burden of fighting for evacuation plans is exacerbating the health conditions of many disabled people. One disabled leaseholder’s post-traumatic stress disorder is being regularly triggered every time she asks her managing agent for an evacuation plan. To this day she cannot get their support to create one.
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.