The ‘responsible person’, as defined by the Order, is responsible for ensuring that the provisions of the above Order are fully complied with, including the carrying out of a fire risk assessment. This assessment should take note of all persons likely to be on the premises, including those with disabilities.
The following paragraphs are extracted from the Government’s guidance document on Means of Escape for disabled people.
1.1 Legal overview
The Fire and Rescue Service’s role in fire evacuation is that of ensuring that the means of escape in case of fire and associated fire safety measures provided for all people who may be in a building are both adequate and reasonable, taking into account the circumstances of each particular case.
Under current fire safety legislation it is the responsibility of the person(s) having responsibility for the building to provide a fire safety risk assessment that includes an emergency evacuation plan for all people likely to be in the premises, including disabled people, and how that plan will be implemented.
Such an evacuation plan should not rely upon the intervention of the Fire and Rescue Service to make it work. In the case of multi-occupancy buildings, responsibility may rest with a number of persons for each occupying organisation and with the owners of the building. It is important that they co-operate and co-ordinate evacuation plans with each other. This could present a particular problem in multi-occupancy buildings when the different escape plans and strategies need to be co-ordinated from a central point.
The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA) does not make any change to these requirements: it underpins the current fire safety legislation in England and Wales – the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 – by requiring that employers or organisations providing services to the public take responsibility for ensuring that all people, including disabled people, can leave the building they control safely in the event of a fire.
The guidance document can be downloaded free of charge at: Communities and Local Government
Refuges are relatively safe waiting areas for short periods until the management of the building can coordinate an effective escape strategy. They are not areas where disabled people should be left alone indefinitely until rescued by the fire and rescue service, or until the fire is extinguished. Depending on the design and fire resistance of other elements, a refuge could be a lobby, corridor, part of a public area or stairway. It could also be an open space such as a balcony or similar place, which is sufficiently protected (or remote) from any fire risk and provided with its own means of escape and a means of communication. Where refuges are provided, they should be enclosed in a fire-resisting structure, which creates a protected escape route that leads directly to a place of total safety and should only be used in conjunction with effective management rescue arrangements.
Under the Disability Discrimination Act, if disabled people are likely to use the service (or premises) you provide, then you must anticipate any reasonable adjustments that would make it easier for that right to be exercised. The Disability Discrimination Act includes the concept of ‘reasonable adjustments’ and this can be carried over into fire safety law. It can mean different things in different circumstances. For a small business it may be considered reasonable to provide contrasting colours on a handrail to help people with vision impairment to follow an escape route more easily. However, it might be unreasonable to expect that same business to install an expensive voice-alarm system. Appropriate ‘reasonable adjustments’ for a large business or organisation may be much more significant.
If disabled people are going to be in your premises then you must also provide a safe means for them to leave if there is a fire. You and your staff should be aware that disabled people may not react, or can react differently, to a fire warning or a fire. You should give similar consideration to others with special needs such as parents with young children as the elderly. In premises with a simple layout, a commonsense approach, such as offering to help lead a blind person or helping an elderly person down steps may be enough. In more complex premises, more elaborate plans and procedures will be needed, with trained staff assigned to specified duties. In complex premises, you may also wish to contact a professional consultant or take advice from disability organisations.
Where people with special needs use or work in the premises, their needs should, so far as practicable be discussed with them. These will often be modest and may require only changes or modifications to existing procedures. You may need to develop individual ‘personal emergency evacuation plans’ (PEEPs) for disabled persons who frequently use a building. They will need to be confident of any plan/PEEP that is put in place after consultation with them. As part of your consultation exercise you will need to consider the matter of personal dignity. If members of the public use your building then you may need to develop a range of standard PEEPs, which can be provided on request to a disabled person or others with special needs.
Guidance on removing barriers to the everyday needs of disabled people is contained in BS 8300:2001 Design of buildings and their approaches to meet the needs of disabled people. Much of this advice will also help disabled people during an evacuation.
Further information regarding this document may be found at: British Standards Website
Further advice can be obtained from the Equality and Human Rights Commission
South Wales Fire & Rescue ServiceForest View Business ParkLLANTRISANTCF72 8LX
Tel: 01443 232000email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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