Disability and Fire Safety

Important information regarding provisions required for people with disabilities.

The role of the Fire and Rescue Service as enforcing authority is to ensure the means of escape  in case of fire and associated fire safety measures provided for all people who may be in a building are both adequate and reasonable, taking into account the circumstances of each particular case.

Under current fire safety legislation, the Responsible Person, as defined by the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 has to provide a fire safety risk assessment that includes an emergency evacuation plan for all people likely to be in the premises, including people with disabilities, and how that plan will be implemented. Such an evacuation plan should not rely upon the intervention of the fire and rescue service to make it work.

In the case of multi-occupancy buildings, responsibility may rest with a number of Responsible Persons for each occupying organisation and with the owners of the building. It is important that they co-operate and co-ordinate evacuation plans with each other. This could present a particular problem in multi-occupancy buildings when the different escape plans and strategies need to be co-ordinated from a central point.

The Disability Discrimination Act 2005 (DDA) does not make any change to these requirements. It underpins the above fire safety legislation in England and Wales by requiring that employers or organisations providing services to the public take responsibility for ensuring that all people, including those with disabilities, can leave the building safely in the event of a fire. Where an employer or a service provider does not make provision for the safe evacuation of people with disabilities from its premises, this may be viewed as discrimination. It may also constitute a failure to comply with the requirements of the fire safety legislation mentioned above.

From 1 October 2010, the majority of the Equality Act 2010 was implemented and replaced major parts of the provisions of the Disability Discrimination Act.

Public bodies have an additional duty, called the Disability Equality Duty (DED), which from December 2006, requires them to proactively promote the equality of people with disabilities. This requires employers to do even more to ensure that people with disabilities do not face discrimination by not being provided with a safe evacuation plan from a building. This document provides guidance on how organisations can ensure the safe evacuation of people with disabilities from their premises.

The Government publish a guidance document, entitled Fire Safety Risk Assessment - Means of Fire Escape for Disabled People to assist with considering the needs of persons with disabilities within your fire risk assessment.

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