The Importance of Visual Cues for Safe Evacuation

exit sign

There’s a reason why exit signs are displayed in bright colors and in predictable locations. Whether the people inside a building are regular employees or first-time visitors, knowing how to safely exit a building is the most critical aspect of safe evacuation during a crisis.

Signs proscribing the use of elevators during an emergency are equally important, since power and mechanical failures are possible due to any number of causes. Having clear signage is critical because rational thinking and problem solving are often the first casualties when the threat of a natural disaster, terrorist attack, fire, or other emergency becomes imminent. Those well-placed signs save lives.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act and OSHA safety guidelines, employers must provide accommodations to employees with disabilities, and provide accessibility in public buildings. In the cases of employees, clientele, or students who use wheelchairs, this includes providing access ramps; but it should also include a plan for safely evacuating a multi-story building when elevators are not in use. Whether you operate a hotel, shopping mall, arena, or office building–you need visual cues and signage to instruct your people in safe evacuation procedures for those who cannot use emergency stairways. Not only is this simply the right thing to do, it can also save you the expense of costly litigation should you ever experience a life-threatening emergency in your venue.

Does your building provide life-saving devices?

The simple fact is that many businesses’ plans for evacuating a wheelchair-bound individual is simply calling on emergency responders. Some may even have evacuation chairs somewhere in their facilities that allow non-ambulatory to be lowered down stairs. Thanks to the Slyde, however, there is a faster, safer, and more visible solution.

The Slyde is a medical sled that allows two to seven individuals to safely transport a disabled individual down multiple flights of stairs. It is lightweight, easy to operate, and, most importantly, can be publicly stored in an accessible area where it will be seen.

Look at the success of public-access defibrillators. It’s been determined that public-access defibrillators can double a person’s chance of surviving a cardiac arrest. Simply having defibrillators around in public spaces like malls and airports (accompanied by instructive signage) puts them on our radar and lets us know they are there for use in a medical emergency. They empower individuals to take active steps to help others. It is estimated that only 20 percent of heart attacks occur in public spaces, but among those, 95 percent of victims die before they reach a hospital.* Having defibrillators available improves their chances of survival.

The Slyde can also be viewed as a life-saving device. Should a fire or structural collapse put your constituents or clientele in danger, getting disabled individuals to safety can indeed save their lives. When elevators are not operating and everyone else is evacuating by stairs, you don’t want any individual to be left behind. Having a highly visible transport device at the ready can empower bystanders to take life-saving action.

Like defibrillators, the Slyde can be mounted easily in hallways and near staircases and elevators without obstructing traffic. A slim, mountable sleeve is available for purchase with the Slyde and can hold up to five devices more compactly than an evacuation chair. It also comes with a rope belay system that can be used to safely lower recumbent individuals down stairs. Add your own signage, train your staff, and you will have added another life-saving device to your evacuation plan.

Not only is the Slyde there for your people in an emergency, it also promotes public awareness of evacuation procedures. It is a powerful visual signal that you have a process and tools in place to evacuate disabled individuals.

To learn more about the Slyde, visit www.evacuationslyde.com or call us directly at 800-355-4628. 

K-12 Schools and Universities: Have You Planned for Safe Evacuation of Less Mobile Student and Staff?

young girl in wheelchair in hall

As a school or educational institution, you likely have ADA-compliant evacuation procedures set up to protect your less mobile population. You know that you cannot depend on elevators, first responders, or goodwill to transport your non-ambulatory students or staff members to safety. In addition to your pre-existing evacuation procedures, however, a medical evacuation device, such as the Slyde, can ensure your people have the tools and visual cues at hand to help make sure everyone is provided a method of evacuation.

A true crisis can take many forms, yet most schools do not prepare for more than a couple of potential scenarios. In the event of a power outage, violent attack, fire, natural disaster, structural damage, or other emergency situation, any number of obstacles can leave your evacuation plans wanting. By diversifying your options for transporting disabled or unconscious students, you offer more possible solutions and can cover a broader range of contingencies.

The Slyde (formerly called the Paraslyde) is a medical sled that can be operated by two to seven individuals to transport an immobilized person safely down flights of stairs. The Slyde is small, lightweight, and employs a series of web handles and straps to guide a recumbent individual down several flights of stairs. While students and staff who use wheelchairs are the most obvious beneficiaries of a Slyde evacuation device, you may be surprised by who else may have trouble getting down a stairway during an emergency.

Who Else Can Benefit from a Slyde?

In addition to any wheelchair-bound students you are already aware of, there are a number of conditions that may or may not be disclosed on a student or staff member’s official record. Many of these can impact safe and speedy evacuation and may still leave you liable should someone be left behind. For example, temporary conditions both visible (a student with a broken leg) and non-visible (a staff member recovering from a slipped disc or temporarily impaired vision) may leave a less-mobile individual with no way to exit a building. While your permanently disabled or wheelchair-bound students may be well known to you, there is always the possibility that someone may be temporarily using crutches, a cane, a walker, or have other mobility issues that may preclude safe descent of stairs.

Beyond physical limitations, there are other factors that may hinder a person’s ability to function normally during an emergency. Psychological or cognitive conditions, such as PTSD, panic disorders, or autism spectrum disorders easily have the potential to render a person unable to function as expected when a true crisis occurs. Having a device on hand that can safely evacuate any unconscious or nonmobile individuals can help you ensure you are prepared for many scenarios.

Protect Your Students and Staff; Protect Your School

Most schools are familiar with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and understand its bearing on state-mandated emergency preparedness and evacuation planning. However, what they may not know is that there have been a series of lawsuits* in recent years in which schools that thought they were prepared were found to be inadequate. Their plans failed to accommodate their disabled students when it mattered. Such schools have had to pay costly settlements for their mistakes.

The most important step you can take to protect your students and staff is to establish an evacuation plan that covers as many potential scenarios as possible. Many schools establish crisis management plans that meet basic state requirements on paper, but leave gaps that leave less-mobile students vulnerable. Adding a Slyde to your facilities can help you make sure you have multiple options and multiple pathways for evacuating disabled or unconscious students.

How to Add the Slyde to Your Evacuation Plan

  • Address your students and staff to inform them the device is available for anyone who may not be able to use stairs during an emergency or crisis.
  • Keep evacuation Slydes mounted between hallways and stairwells or near elevators.
  • Train staff in the safe use of evacuation devices.
  • Post “If you need help…” and “How to use the Slyde…” signage at designated points, so anyone can request help and operate the device in a crisis.
  • Conduct full contingency drills to rehearse your evacuation plan.

Your present emergency safety procedures may be strong already. But with diverse and constantly changing student populations, the Slyde can help give you reassurance that a safe evacuation (or drill) is always possible. To learn more about the Slyde, visit www.evacuationslyde.com or call us at 800-355-4628.