e-ACCESS is in its tenth year and we thought it appropriate to reprint a few stories of the stories that have made it so popular.
We Could All Go Back to School!
Allan B. Fraser, CBI, CPCA, Sr. Bldg Code Specialist, NFPA
(Concept by Mary Beth Fraser)
As children all over America head to their bus stops to go back to school, they look forward to starting a new year of learning and new experiences. It’s also a time for parents, teachers, administrators and other public officials to think about something that we too often forget to send with them along with their lunches, backpacks and calculators: an emergency evacuation plan. Every child should have a plan, but a plan is even more critical if the child has a disability.
Given events of the past few years, we have all become more aware of the importance of being able to protect everyone in a building in the event of an emergency. It’s not just a fire drill anymore, its emergency evacuation or emergency planning.
Earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, tornados and other natural disasters along with man-made incidents have all resulted in tragic personal injuries when people could not get out of buildings or be relocated to safe areas within buildings. The risks are significantly higher for people with disabilities. Our schools are not immune from these events and we owe it to our children to have good plans in place. That is just one of the reasons that NFPA has developed two downloadable guides for developing emergency evacuation plans for school children or anyone with a disability.
We have made a good start on creating “accessibility” in the built environment in the past 35 years, but we still have a ways to go. Local and national newspaper, television and radio news report stories about people with disabilities of all ages being left in buildings during evacuation or relocation drills in which everyone else in the building participated.
Accessibility rules and regulations have somehow developed unanticipated consequences creating a mindset in many Americans that makes us tend to look at two separate groups of people, those with disabilities and those without.
In reality, we will all be people with disabilities at some point in our lives. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, almost 50 million people in this country have one or more disabilities that rise to the ADA level. That’s about one in five Americans.
NFPA codes and standards have long considered and included provisions for people with disabilities. Our website page on disabilities has a lot of good, free safety information for people with disabilities and their friends, families, and caregivers but we still want to do more.
e-ACCESS can become a vehicle for changing the mindset where fire and life safety for people with disabilities is concerned. It can be the instrument through which people with disabilities can easily obtain and share information about fire and life safety issues to help themselves and to educate others.
e-ACCESS is where people with disabilities can share their fire and life safety tips and experiences, both good and bad, for the benefit of everyone.