Mike Elkerton MBE, CEO of consultancy company Access & Evacu8 Ltd, looks back on events this year which for him are a cause for concern when it comes to the evacuation for people with limited mobility. Elkerton is calling for a debate on this issue for fear of society, companies and the Government becoming complacent.
“Disability Access and Evacuation has been at the forefront of media coverage during the last few months and I have serious concerns over procedures with regards to the evacuation of disabled people.
It seems to me that no thought has been given in many cases with regards to disabled people’s welfare in a terrorist or an emergency evacuation situation.
In the recent terrorist attacks, first at Manchester when wheelchair users were corralled into a space that had no exit?
Then in London at the London Bridge attack, when wheelchair users were directed blindly away from the incident, not knowing where they were supposed to go to?
It seems that there were no provisions in place to provide information or instructions as these situations unfolded.
The ‘Grenfell Tower Block’ fire highlighted a number of issues, which represent flaws in the ‘Fire Regulations’ and the lack of powers that the ‘Fire Authorities’ have with regards to inspecting buildings.
Some of the weaknesses that were identified during the fire, was the confusion around the ‘Stay Put’ policy, those that were lucky enough to be informed by the fire crews on site or use their own initiative to evacuate had to deal with several obstacles in order to exit the building.
The one stairwell had no emergency lighting and any evacuee’s vision was obliterated by thick black smoke.
It was made clear that disabled people were accommodated throughout the tower block. There was no evacuation equipment provided for their needs and they had to rely on the goodwill of other tenants to assist them in their evacuation.
The media vision of people being trapped on the eleventh floor screaming for help for over an hour on live TV was a shocking and very disturbing event to witness.
The Government promised a public enquiry on how this horrendous situation could have happened, however it would appear that the enquiry will concentrate on the cladding that is suspected of being the cause of the fire and not deal with any other issues including the concerns raised by the tenants a year prior to the fire.
Personally I feel there are a numbers of questions need to be answered with regards to the evacuation of ‘Disabled & Vulnerable People’.
Without a debate covering these serious issues, I feel that we will all have become complacent.”