Evac+Chair gives the Last Word on the Fire Safety Act

Ges 2021

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Gerard Wallace, Managing Director at Evac+Chair International tells us why the Fire Safety Act was a missed opportunity

What is your response to the Fire Safety Act, FSA?

We are hopeful that the FSA is just the start of creating legislation and laws pertaining to fire safety, but we do see it as an opportunity missed for the disabled, due to the lack of commitment to PEEPS (Personal Emergency Escape Plan) in high-rise residential blocks.

We have copious amounts of rules, legislation, approvals and controls around Fire Safety, but very little concerning safe evacuation particularly for the disabled. Many lives have been lost due to lack of thought, legislation and planning around safe evacuation. Every building is different, specifically in reference to the means of escape.

There are a wide range of products available to ensure everyone, including the mobility impaired can be evacuated in an emergency but the lack of legislation means they are rarely implemented. Equipment should be mandatorily available to ensure that everyone can escape in an emergency, including the mobility impaired.

The “Stay Put Policy” has been hugely controversial for many years amongst fire safety professionals. My thoughts on this are, who makes the call on “Stay Put” or “Evacuate Now”, what sort of skills and experience must you have to make this judgement? There is a little more clarity around the legal responsibility of “The Responsible Person” but the revised legislation falls far short of considering the needs of the mobility impaired. At the very least, a PEEP should be mandatory for every building as it provides reassurance to those with mobility impairments that there is a plan in place for their safe evacuation.

Why do you feel evacuation chairs should be legislated?

They have been proven to save lives and there are many examples of this, everyone should have the right and means to evacuate in an emergency, if it is appropriate to do so. Whether the plan is to evacuate or stay put, without the proper equipment in place, evacuating the mobility impaired will be at the very least challenging but could lead to life threatening consequences. In the case of Grenfell, deaths of disabled residents was far greater than any other group. 41% of disabled residents lost their life as they were not able to evacuate themselves and equipment that could have helped them was not available.

What options can Evac+Chair offer building owners looking to improve their evacuation equipment?

We manufacture a wide range of evacuation chairs, specifically designed for stairway evacuation, to suit any type of personnel requirement and staircase; providing everyone with the means to escape, whether disabled, injured or mobility impaired. We offer free on-site evacuation assessments, carried out by our team of specialist nationwide consultants, which we recommend prior to purchase, this ensures the most suitable Evac+Chair is selected. We also offer training courses to ensure that our equipment is deployed and operated in the correct and safe manner, in the event of an emergency. Every building should be equipped with the means to evacuate anyone who cannot quickly and safely evacuate themselves.

This article was originally published in the August edition of IFSJ. To read your FREE digital copy, click here.

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