Disaster Emergency Preparedness Plan for People with Disabilities

General information on Evacuation of Persons with Disabilities can be found in the campus Emergency Response Manual.

Table of Contents

  1. Guidelines For People With Disabilities In Emergencies
  2. Evacuation Process For People With Disabilities
  3. Emergency Evacuation Tips And Overview
  4. Emergency Procedures For Multi-Function Buildings
  5. Questions  


  1. Evacuation of people with disabilities will be given the highest priority in all emergencies. In an emergency situation, it is important that students are familiar with their needs during evacuation. You are encouraged to convey these needs to your instructor at the beginning of each semester. While attending class, try to position yourself near a doorway for an easier exit. Become familiar with the building and its exits. Follow signs to exits. The following guidelines are important to follow:
    1. Establish a buddy system and alternate for each class. People with disabilities should prepare for an emergency ahead of time by instructing a classmate, instructor, supervisor, or co-worker on how to assist in the event of any emergency.
    2. If assistance is not immediately available, people with disabilities should remain near the stairwell landing or in the elevator lobby. Rescue personnel will first check all exit corridors and stairwells for those trapped. S/he should continue to call for help until rescued.
    3. People who cannot speak loudly, or with voice / speech impairments, should carry a whistle or have other means of attracting attention of others.
    4. Be familiar with alarm signals.
    5. Leave school materials in the room to avoid wasting time.
    6. Wait for rescue & remain calm.
    7. DO NOT re-enter a building until permitted by emergency personnel.
  2. If you suspect a fire is behind a door; cover your hand to provide protection, first and then test the door by touching it. If it is hot then do NOT use the door as an exit. Try to find an alternate route for an exit.
  3. Elevators: Do NOT use elevators unless authorized to do so by police or fire personnel. Elevators could fail during a fire, earthquake or flood.
  4. Planning Resources: Emergency Evacuation Planning Guide for People with Disabilities


The Policy on Evacuation of Persons with Disabilities can be found in the Evacuation section of the campus Emergency Response Manual. BUILDING COORDINATORS and volunteers should familiarize themselves with these procedures in order to assist in planning for the evacuation of people with physical and sensory disabilities. BUILDING COORDINATORS should also be familiar with the Evacuation Chair (PDF), currently located in the following buildings:

  • AIRC
  • Amador Hall
  • Capistrano Hall
  • Eureka Hall 
  • Lassen Hall
  • Mariposa Hall
  • Mendocino Hall
  • Modoc Hall
  • Napa Hall
  • Placer Hall
  • Riverside Hall
  • Sacramento Hall
  • Sequoia Hall
  • Tahoe Hall
  • Solano Hall
  • All of the Residence Halls
  • The Library
  • The Well
  • The University Union
    1. Evacuation of people with disabilities will be given the highest priority in all emergencies and will be evacuated if possible.  
    2. Attempt a rescue evacuation ONLY if you have had rescue training.
    3. Check on people with disabilities during an evacuation, determine if they have established a "buddy system," and ensure their safe evacuation.
    4. Always ASK someone with a disability how you can help BEFORE attempting any rescue technique or giving assistance. Ask whether there are any special considerations or items that need to come with the person.
    5. If the situation is life threatening, call 911.
    6. Do NOT use elevators, unless authorized to do so by police or fire personnel. Elevators could fail during a fire, earthquake or flood.
      1. Most persons with visual impairments will be familiar with the immediate area they are in and may have learned locations of exits and fire alarms in advance.
      2. Tell the person the nature of the emergency and offer to guide him/her by offering your left/right elbow (this is the preferred method when acting as a "Sighted Guide"). Do NOT grasp a visually impaired person’s arm.
      3. Give verbal instructions to advise about the safest route or direction using compass directions, estimated distances, and directional terms or information (i.e., elevators cannot be used or if there is debris or a crowd.)
      4. As you walk, tell the person where you are and advise of any obstacles, e.g. stairs, overhanging objects, uneven pavement, curbs, narrow passageways.
      5. When you have reached the designated Emergency Assembly Point, orient the person to where he/she is and ask if any further assistance is needed.
      6. Some individuals may have dog guides that may be disoriented during the emergency, and may require additional assistance.
      7. White canes and other mobility aids should NOT be left behind.
      1. Most structures are not equipped with visual (flashing light) evacuation alarms and persons with impaired hearing may not perceive an emergency exists. An alternative warning technique is required. Two (2) methods of warning are:
        1. Write a note stating what the emergency is and what the evacuation route is -i.e. "Fire - go out the rear door to Parking Lot".
        2. Turn the room lights on and off to gain attention - then indicate through hand gestures or writing (i.e. on a whiteboard) what is happening and where to go.
      2. Offer visual instructions to advise of safest route or directions by pointing toward exits or evacuation map.
      3. People who cannot speak loudly, or with voice/speech impairments, may be carrying a whistle or have other means of attracting attention of others.
      1. People with mobility-impairments should NOT be evacuated by untrained personnel unless the situation is life-threatening. It may be necessary to help clear the exit route of debris (if possible) so that the person with a disability can move out or to a safer area.
      2. If people with mobility impairments cannot exit, they should move to a safer area, e.g., the designated Emergency Assembly Point, most enclosed stairwells, or an office with the door shut which is a good distance from the hazard (and away from falling debris in the case of earthquakes.)
      3. Notify police or fire personnel immediately about any people remaining in the building and their locations.
      4. Police or fire personnel will decide whether people are safe where they are, and will evacuate them as necessary.
      5. If people are in immediate danger and cannot be moved to a safer area to wait for assistance, it may be necessary, only if you have had rescue training, to evacuate them using an evacuation chair. Check with the BUILDING COORDINATOR for the availability of an evacuation chair if needed.

      The same procedure outlined for Mobility Impairments should be used. Crutches, canes and walkers should not be left behind.

      1. Most people who are non-ambulatory will be able to exit safely without assistance out of single story buildings.
      2. All 2+ story buildings will require persons to be carried out. It may be necessary, only if you have had rescue training, to evacuate them using an evacuation chair. Some people have no upper trunk or neck strength to assist in being carried out. Some people have minimal ability to move and lifting them may be dangerous to their well being.
      3. Notify police or fire personnel immediately about any people remaining in the building and their locations.
      4. Police or fire personnel will decide whether people are safe where they are, and will evacuate them as necessary.
      5. If a wheelchair is left behind, do NOT leave it in an exit path or doorway to become an obstacle. Wheelchairs have many movable weak parts which were not constructed to withstand the stress of lifting (e.g., the seatbar, footplates, wheels, movable armrests).
      6. Frequently, persons who are non-ambulatory have respiratory complications or rely on electric artificial respirators. They should be given priority assistance if there is smoke or fumes, as their ability to breathe is seriously in danger.
      7. Power wheelchairs may have heavy batteries, which are difficult to remove. In this situation, the best response may be to ask the person to transfer to an evacuation chair, if one is available, so that they can be moved immediately. If it is not possible for the person to be removed from the chair (i.e., if the person uses respiratory equipment that is attached to the chair), wait for assistance. If attempting to move a power wheelchair, remove the batteries. Make sure the footrests are locked, the motor is off, and it is in neutral gear. Some power wheelchairs and scooters may not have heavy battery packs, and may be moved with little difficulty.
      8. If the person prefers to be removed from their wheelchair, their needs and preferences will vary. Always consult the person as to his/her preference with regard to:
        1. Ways of being removed from a wheelchair
        2. The number of people needed for assistance
        3. If a seat cushion or pad should be brought along with him/her if he/she is removed from the wheelchair
        4. After-care. If a person is removed from the wheelchair (i.e. a stretcher, chair with cushion pad, or car seat) perhaps paramedic assistance might be needed
      9. The person will want their wheelchair retrieved as soon as possible. The wheelchair is essential to the person's mobility and should be given a high priority to be retrieved as soon as possible. Inform Public Safety of the location of wheelchairs to be retrieved.
    1. If an outage occurs during the day and people with disabilities choose to wait in the building for electricity to be restored, they can move near a window where there is natural light and access to a working telephone. During regular building hours, BUILDING COORDINATORS should be notified so they can advise emergency personnel.
    2. If people would like to leave and an evacuation has been ordered, or if the outage occurs at night, call Public Safety at 911 from a campus telephone or 278-6851 from a cell phone to request evacuation assistance.


Evacuation is difficult and uncomfortable for both the rescuers and the people being assisted. Some people have conditions that can be aggravated or triggered if they are moved incorrectly. Remember that environmental conditions (smoke, debris, loss of electricity) will complicate evacuation efforts.

The following guidelines are general and may not apply in every circumstance.

  1. Occupants should be invited to volunteer ahead of time to assist people with disabilities in an emergency. If a volunteer is not available, designate someone to assist who is willing to accept the responsibility.
  2. Volunteers should obtain evacuation training for certain types of lifting techniques through the Office of Environmental Health and Safety (EHLS) in coordination with the Student Health Center, Public Safety and SSWD.
  3. Two or more trained volunteers, if available, should conduct the evacuation and relay teams established if the evacuation is more than three flights.
  4. Always ASK people with disabilities how you can help BEFORE attempting any rescue technique or giving assistance. Ask how they can best be assisted or moved, and if there are any special considerations or items that need to come with them. Lifting a person may be harmful. Ask whether a seat cushion or pad should be brought along. Wheelchairs were not designed to handle the stress of lifting. Batteries may have to be removed and life support equipment could be connected.
  5. Before attempting an evacuation, volunteers and people being assisted should discuss how any lifting will be done and where they are going.
  6. Ask permission of the evacuee if an evacuation chair or similar device is being considered as an aid in an evacuation. When using such devices, make sure the person is secured properly. Proper lifting techniques (e.g., bending the knees, keeping the back straight, holding the person close before lifting, and using leg muscles to lift) should be used to avoid injury to rescuers' backs. Rest at landings if necessary.
  7. A straight back chair or evacuation chair may require at least three strong people who can control the chair (if the person agrees to this method.)


Prepare occupants in your building ahead of time for emergency evacuations. Know your building occupants. Train staff, faculty, and students to be aware of the needs of people with disabilities and to know how to offer assistance. Hold evacuation drills in which occupants participate, and evaluate drills to identify areas that need improvement. Develop plans that cover regular working hours, after hours, and weekends.

Everyone needs to take responsibility for preparing for emergencies. People with disabilities should consider what they would do and whether they need to take additional steps to prepare.

At alarm, options are:

  1. In an extreme emergency, leave the building immediately and notify emergency personnel of a person with a disability needing assistance.
  2. In a moderate emergency, help the person with a disability to your department's area of safe refuge assembly point, leave the building, and notify emergency personnel of a person with a disability needing assistance.
  3. Assist the person with a disability to evacuate.

After "all clear": Contact or send an E-mail to your BUILDING COORDINATOR about things which might need to be improved. 


The following information is designed to offer some generic guidance in designing an emergency evacuation plan that takes into account persons with disabilities who may be in the building. It is applicable to buildings that have both offices and classrooms in them. It will need to be modified to address unique aspects of some buildings and the personnel located in the building. These procedures, regardless of the type of emergency, do not provide for all possible emergency scenarios. Please take the time to read and become familiar with its contents. Administrators, Faculty or Staff are responsible for directing evacuation from their work area, depending on the building and circumstances.

The designated emergency BUILDING COORDINATOR and other appropriate personnel should be familiar with this Emergency Preparedness Plan, provide a hard copy of the building plan and display the escape routes in a prominent location, with emergency personnel's names and extensions. At least two (2) routes out of the building should be identified so as to have a back-up route if the other one is blocked. The two routes should not involve the use of elevators. Most elevators are designed to stop operating when the alarm is sounding and are not safe during fires, earthquakes and floods.

(Please refer for more specific details to: Department of Public Safety's Emergency Action Plan)

  1. Prior to an emergency, the BUILDING COORDINATOR will:
    1. Develop a plan to communicate with Public Safety during the emergency and a plan to accommodate anyone who might be injured or trapped during an emergency.
    2. Give Public Safety the location of individuals with disabilities who are permanently assigned to the building. (This information will come from the FLOOR COORDINATORS).
    3. Determine a place for those evacuating the building to meet (Emergency Assembly Point). The FLOOR COORDINATORS need to know the location of the evacuation destination. For information on the safer areas in your building, call the Public Safety Office at x 916-278-6851.
    4. Know primary and alternate routes of evacuation.
  2. Prior to an emergency the FLOOR COORDINATORS will:
    1. Identify faculty and staff with disabilities who are permanently assigned to space on each coordinator's floor. Relay the location of these individuals to the
    2. Develop a system of communicating with persons with hearing impairments who are permanently assigned to the building (hand signals or written instructions on cards). Offices and desks for individuals with impaired hearing need to be equipped with Deaf Smoke (strobe A vibrating) Alarm, Closed Captioning Decoder, and/or Telecommunication Devices for the Deaf (TDDs) that ensure effective communication with others. Telephone emergency services, including 911 services, must provide direct access to individuals who use TDD's and computer modems, as required by Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA}.
  3. In the event of an emergency the BUILDING COORDINATOR will:
    1. Call 911 right away and give a description and location of the emergency. In case of fire, pull one of the fire alarms.
    2. Inform the FLOOR COORDINATORS of the nature of the emergency. As long as it is safe to do so, the building coordinator will remain in their office to maintain liaison with Public Safety during the emergency.
    3. When all FLOOR COORDINATORS have indicated their floors are vacant or when the building is no longer safe, go to the evacuation destination.
  4. In the event of an emergency the FLOOR COORDINATORS will:
    1. Call 911 right away and give description and location of emergency.
    2. Notify all individuals on the floor of the nature of the emergency, the direction they should go to evacuate and where to go once they have left the building. In the case of class rooms and lecture halls this information will be given to the instructor.
    3. If there is no immediate danger, consider leaving student or employee where he or she is, and immediately inform the BUILDING COORDINATOR or Public Safety of the student's location, or call 911 for assistance. In a life-threatening situation, where immediate evacuation is necessary, the following options may be exercised: a) Personally assist the student down the stairs. Some crutch and cane users may be able to use the stairs and some may not. Please ask them. b) Judgment will need to be exercised in certain situations. For example, badly hurt individuals should not normally be moved, but there might be a greater danger to the individual if (s)he is not moved, as in the case of a fire.
    4. Once they have notified everyone on the floor to evacuate, notify the BUILDING COORDINATOR of people with disabilities or injuries who were not able to evacuate. Give the BUILDING COORDINATOR a description of the individuals and their location. Once the floor is evacuated, notify the BUILDING COORDINATOR and go to the evacuation destination.
    5. Do not stay in the building any longer than it is safe to do so.

Wait for further direction from the BUILDING COORDINATOR or from Public Safety before re-entering the building.

Source: Select information used with permission from Goodin, George, Emergency Procedures for Multi-function Buildings, January 1996, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan.


For questions regarding campus safety or emergency response you can contact the Public Safety Department at 916-278-6851.

Please inform SSWD at sswd@csus.edu if you encounter any problems accessing the SSWD web site.