Evacuation and multi-floor buildings (Split from Fire Drills)

That makes me wonder, what happens if a handicapped person can’t evacuate due to the elevator recall?

The school needs a plan for staging. Many schools and large occupancy buildings have plans and signs in place for those who can not use the stairs to stage in hallways, stairways, or near the elevator. Some locations have phones or intercoms.



I am a firm believer that anyone who is physically handicapped should be forced to stay on a floor with a direct exit to the “street.”

The school does have one of those seats you can bounce down the stairs. However, they just found it easier to use the elevator, since the drill was planned.

The high school I went to had positive pressure stairways with fire walls and fire doors but at the top there was a corner with an intercom that connected to a panel next to the fire alarm annunciator. The intention was that a person unable to get down the stairs would press the button on the wall and wait there. When the fire department arrived, they’d see the flashing light in the lobby and go to that stairway.



And for the record, a wheelchair-bound person I knew had most of her classes scheduled on the first floor.

Thank god my MS/HS was all one floor. My ES, on the other hand was 4 floors and NO ELEVATOR. Handicapped kids would literally have to be carried up and down the stairs by nurse’s assistants. IDK what they did for fire drills though. In MS/HS they’d pre-evacuate the handicapped people.

Only as small section of my school is two stories tall (as you can see in this map), and there’s one particular staircase, located right next to the elevator, that has a platform in the middle of it that leads to the outside.



So, in the event of a real fire, I think that if wheelchair-bound students were attempting do go downstairs via the elevator, which, of course, would not work, it would only take one or two extra people to safely help them in their wheelchairs down the half-flight of stairs that are necessary to descend for exit.

No offense, but just because your friend had her classes on the lower floor doesn’t mean everyone in the world has to.



PS For people with elevator interests, we have a keyed-out US elevator.

You really misread what I said. I wasn’t trying to make any points; I was just stating a fact and agreeing with what Jake said.

It is obvious that not everyone would do that, not all situations would permit it.

The point is we’re stating that it is a good idea if the situation could allow for it, not making a law saying that everyone has to…

I once went to a two-story school that had a wheelchair ramp from the first floor to the second floor in addition to the elevator and stairs. There’d be no problem at that school for wheelchair users to escape from the second floor during a fire drill.

I think most of you fail to understand what a “fire drill” is. It makes sure you and everyone else understands how to evacuate. Having you use the elevator BEFORE the fire drill CANCELS the fire drill all together. This is no point in doing it. The only people that should be aware of a fire drill is a small group of people so they can oversee it. Better yet, in most towns around here the fire department is involved and typically only school admin staff are aware.

Honestly, it could go either way. Some people agree that it should be unannounced as real emergencies are never announced and out of fear that if they know it’s not real they won’t take it seriously, but others think people should be notified so that they know evac routes & proceedures ahead of time.



Personally I think they should be announced because it’s just a “given” that you’re always expected to act like it’s the real thing (lots of places do take actions against those that don’t cooperate) and business-wise, people won’t be in the middle of something and be caught off-guard (like being in the middle of a phone call), plus, it helps people like me keep their anxiety to a minimum.

If ones disfunction is so severe that one can not handle an unannounced fire drill they should not be allowed to occupy public spaces. There is a point where someone else’s disability puts others at risk.



If you can’t handle a fire drill how can you be expected to handle a real emergency and keep calm?



Here in the real world nearly everything is unannounced HENCE things like a fire drill. It allows you to prepare for the real thing. I have been everywhere from sitting on the toilet to in the middle of a test during fire drills. Heaven forbid I need to excuse my self from a phone call because the fire alarm has gone off.



Part of being somewhere is “knowing the surroundings” know how you came in, watch for exits as you pass perhaps in a large office space and in a building you do not visit daily. This is not being paranoid its being smart and does not interfere with anything to just “mentally note” you have seen an exit door.



If you alert everyone in a school, and move the people in a wheelchair before hand how can you expect them to be able to operate in a real emergency? Chances are that most people in the building will just consider it a fire drill anyway even if there is a real fire. I have been in a building that had an electrical fire. The smoke detector caught it in an empty room. Only a few people nearby knew there was smoke in a hallway everyone else assumed it was just a regular drill. IF you tell everyone about every drill they are more likely to be even more un-easy about random alarm events.

My above post has been said to be “insensitive” so let me clarify something. Per the post above mine the word “anxiety” was used in relation to the effect of a fire alarm activation.



Anxiety can lead to an anxiety attack.



What are some of the symptoms?



Surge of overwhelming panic

Feeling of losing control or going crazy

Heart palpitations or chest pain

Feeling like you’re going to pass out

Trouble breathing or choking sensation

Hyperventilation

Hot flashes or chills

Trembling or shaking

Nausea or stomach cramps

Feeling detached or unreal



I am not being “insensitive” however. making a point that these symptoms can put you your self in danger simply as a bystander near someone with anxiety. In extreme cases the anxiety can be so bad that the sufferer can attack the people around them in an escape even though there is no danger. The anxiety can even be triggered simply with the indication a fire drill or other event is about to occur. Leading to my comment of " If ones disfunction is so severe that one can not handle an unannounced fire drill they should not be allowed to occupy public spaces"

Announced fire drills or unannounced. To me it doesn’t seem to have an effect.



I remember two incidents in particular at the elementary school and one at the middle school. They announce all fire drills until eighth grade.


  1. Elementary School: Assuming a ball destroyed a pull station in the gym because they said it came from the gym and the only initiating device in there is a single pull station. I was in class at the time. Teacher guided the students out the door and the situation was handled quite calmly. Now granted, the teacher had years of experience with fire drills and told the students what to do, it was still handled well.


  2. Elementary School: Unknown incident. I was in the cafeteria. At first the kids freaked out but suddenly realized what was going on, got up, and headed for the doors. Knew it wasn’t a drill because the fire department responded.


  3. Middle School: Substitute teacher in an art class panicked when she smelled smoke from a nearby controlled brush fire (she thought it was the kiln burning or something). I was in the cafeteria talking with people about computers. Alarm sounds, and kinda simultaneously (kinda freaky to see) nearly everyone gets up and immediately walks to the exits. For the record, fire drills were never scheduled during lunches, so this was a new situation for all the students. The situation was handled very well by the students, despite not knowing it was going to happen even though all the practice fire drills were announced.



    About #2 and #3 – both lunch rooms had staff watching the students, but they wouldn’t be able to direct traffic because the fire alarm was loud enough that they would not be able to be heard. And visually, who is going to be looking in their direction anyway?



    I think that announced or not, fire drills during grade school are like a training tool to teach people what a fire alarm is, what its function is, and what to do when it sounds. Not every situation can be applied to every building. If someone who has never had a single fire drill in their life is in a supermarket and the fire alarm goes off, they may not know what to do. If they are smart they’ll mimic how everyone else is responding. But if NOBODY knows what a fire alarm is or how to handle it (except emergency responders and fire alarm technicians), nobody would really know what to do. It is like sticking a sign with a picture of a moose on a road and not telling anyone what the sign means.



    Assuming a fire alarm is a fire drill–that’s going to happen. You do enough emergency drills of anything and eventually you’re going to get the Cry Wolf phenomenon. Even though we are always taught to treat every fire alarm like the real thing, even if it is an unannounced drill, eventually people will assume they are all drills, because most of the time their exposures to the fire alarm are drills – even if nobody ever uses the word “drill” it is quite obvious when you get outside and no fire or smoke is showing, and either no fire crews arrive or they are already there and are in their duty uniforms instead of turnout gear.



    If you want people to treat fire drills like the real thing, stage every fire drill to be as close as possible the real thing.

    Unfortunately this is expensive, time consuming, and quite difficult to do successfully.

Fire drills should be unannounced. People need to know what to do in the event of an actual fire. If you have announced fire drills, people ready themselves before the drill, rendering a seamless evacuation. Even if they don’t physically prepare themselves (eg. go to a designated location) they mentally prepare themselves. There is a flaw there - in a real emergency, people will not be ideally stationed or mentally prepared. There will be no supernatural voice to warn people with handicaps that there is going to be an emergency and they should be pre-evacuated. This is why, in my opinion, unannounced drills are better.

I remember my brother telling me one time after our high school had a fire, the principal announced over the intercom about what happened, and that they had to carry the handicapped kids out the door, in the cold! She wasn’t very happy about the whole situation, and the handicapped students thing was adding insult to injury.



My middle school had no elevator, though it was a two-story building (built in 1957.) I think they just kept all the wheelchair-bound kids on the first floor (the second floor had some more classrooms and the media center, but that was it.) They’ll probably eventually install an elevator in the future, like they did with two other 1950s middle schools in Brockton.



I don’t know what they did in my other multi-story schools with elevators (elementary 1-6 and high school); I am sure they would incorporate something into it as part of the drill (without using elevators.) The school I went to for kindergarten is a single-story building with three interior ramps, so that would make evacuation much easier (several classrooms even have direct exits outside, which really comes in handy!)

My elementary school was only one floor, so fire drills were easier for the handicapped kids. We only had 1 false alarm during school (there was others, which weren’t during school hours). It was during recess, and they were fixing an air conditioner on the roof and it caught fire, setting off the fire alarms. The teachers were able to get all the students to line up in fire drill formation. With my high school, it is a really unaccessable school. It was built in 1963. We have 1 elevator in the school, which can only be operated with a special key. The only ramps in our school is at the science wing and double gym.

Fire drills should not be announced, and the fire alarm system should be used for them, as if there were an actual fire.

Bingo! Look who finally got Jake’s posts.

I think the only time a fire drill being announced in advance would be if the school had recently gotten a new fire alarm system, and that it now makes a different sound. They did that at the middle school near my house back in 2003, when they replaced their ancient Edwards Adapt-a-horns from 1954 with a Simplex 4100U voice-evacuation system; before their first fire drill with the new system, they announced to the students and faculty about it, mentioning that their fire alarm system was redone and to expect a different sound (in this case, Slow Whoop and a female version of the default Simplex evac message.) Needless to say, it went over well, and they didn’t need to announce any more fire drills after that (everyone even liked the new system much better than the old one!)



But back on topic, at the time, that school also finally installed an elevator, permitting wheelchair access to the second floor, but I’d imagine that would be mostly for if they need to go to the school library or art classroom, which are located on that. I’m sure at the start of the school year, the teachers would explain the plan they have for any wheelchair-bound students they may have that are on the second floor when the fire alarm goes off.