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Functional Needs Population

UTHSC strives to provide a safe environment to our students, staff, faculty, and guests.

The Building Emergency Action Plan (BEAP) found on the Emergency Management page is designed to help us identify people who may need additional assistance during a campus emergency. 

The information provided to UTHSC Police for assisted response is kept confidential. Additionally, we recommend that people needing assistance carry an evacuation assistance card to help pass information to first responders.

The information on this page is intended for anyone who may need assistance in taking the individual safety actions described on this website. Whether you have a disability, functional needs, medical condition, or an injury that impacts your mobility, you may need extra assistance in an emergency.

The individual actions described under the types of emergency situations still apply, but the execution may need to be altered to account for your circumstances. No single policy can cover every emergency condition or cover every individual’s needs. Please consider the following recommendations.

If you are unable to evacuate:

  • ACT: Take steps to protect yourself.
  • Call 911 if possible and tell them the location to meet you and your need for assistance.
  • Move to a location near an exterior enclosed stairwell, if possible.
  • Assist emergency responders by clearly communicating your needs. Have a person exiting the location notify first responders of your location.
  • Move into the stairway and wait for emergency personnel if doing so doesn’t block evacuation.
  • It is best to be assisted by trained responders. However, ask other evacuees for assistance if the situation warrants immediate action.

The Guardian App found on the Personal Safety page is a great way to quickly communicate with responders about evacuation support. Download the app and fill out a Smart911 profile and critical information will be sent directly to the dispatcher if you use the emergency call button on the app.

Prepare in advance: You may find it helps to let someone in your office, dorm, college, student group, etc. know that in certain situations your actions will need to be adjusted. Some safety needs specific to your circumstances can be considered in advance. This could include but is not limited to:

  • Assistance evacuating
  • Maintaining medical supplies
  • Alternative communication support—including being alerted to an emergency
  • Critical power needs
  • Service animals
  • Medical monitoring
  • Dietary needs and life threatening allergies

University buildings and transportation are ADA compliant and will be used for sheltering and evacuation operations. However, emergencies tend to present unique challenges. When checking in at a shelter, be sure to let someone know of any special needs you might have (i.e. the examples above).

General Guidelines

It is University Policy that all occupants must evacuate the building when the fire alarm is activated.

Departments should develop specific plans for assisting people with functional needs that are frequently in the building.

Campus community member with functional needs are encouraged to register with UTHSC PD for emergency assistance.

Exit stairwells are fire rated and are protected by self-closing/self-latching doors. These are the safest areas during an emergency. Physically impaired persons are advised to proceed to them immediately.

Corridors leading to the exit stairwells must be maintained clear and unobstructed at all times.

If there is no imminent danger and there are no special problems evacuating the person, place the individual into or next to the stairwell.  Rescue personnel are instructed to check all exit corridors and exit stairwells first for any stranded persons.

No one should attempt to use an elevator to evacuate during an emergency. Use the stairs instead.

Specific Recommendations

Visually Impaired Persons

  • Tell the person the nature of the emergency and offer your arm for guidance. This is the preferred method when acting as a "sighted guide."
  • As you walk, tell the person where you are and where obstacles are located.
  • When you reach safety, orient the person to the location and ask if further assistance is needed.

Hearing Impaired Persons

Some campus buildings are equipped with audible fire alarms which should be activated during an emergency. However, hearing impaired individuals may not receive the audible signal. Use an alternative warning system. Several methods can be used, including:

  • Write a note to tell the person of the situation, the nearest evacuation route, and where to meet outside. (Sample script: "FIRE! Go out the rear door on your right. NOW. Meet outside on the front lawn.")
  • Turn the light switch on and off to gain their attention and then indicate through gestures or in writing what is happening and what to do. Do not use the light switch technique if you smell natural gas in the area.

Mobility needs

1. It is safer and preferred that trained responders assist evacuating people with functional needs; however, if the situation does not permit to wait for responder to evacuate them assistance should be provided.

2. Persons Using Crutches, Canes, or Walkers: In evacuations, these individuals should be treated as mobility impaired. Carrying options include using a two-person, lock-arm position or having the individual sit on a sturdy chair (preferably with arms) which is then lifted and carried.

3. People Who Use Wheelchairs (Non-ambulatory): Most non-ambulatory persons will be able to exit safely without assistance if they are on the ground floor. If you are assisting a non-ambulatory person, be aware that some people have minimal ability to move and lifting them may be dangerous to their well-being. Some individuals have very little upper trunk and neck strength.

Frequently, non-ambulatory persons have respiratory complications. Remove them from smoke and vapors immediately. Some people who use wheelchairs may have electrical respirators. Give them priority assistance, as their ability to breathe may be seriously in danger.

The needs and preferences of non-ambulatory individuals vary. Always consult with the person as to his or her preference regarding:

  • Ways of being moved.
  • The number of people necessary for assistance. If carrying a person more than three flights, a relay team will be needed.
  • Whether to extend or move extremities when lifting because of pain, braces, etc.
  • Whether a seat cushion or pad should be brought along.
  • Being carried forward or backward on stairs.
  • Aftercare, if removed from the wheel chair.
  • Remember to check the intended route for obstructions before transporting the individual. Delegate others to bring the wheelchair. When the wheelchair is left behind, remove it from the stairwell and place it so it does not obstruct the egress of others. Reunite the person with their wheelchair as soon as it is safe to do so.

Wheelchairs have many movable or weak parts which were not constructed to withstand the stress of lifting (i.e., the seat bar, foot plates, wheels, movable arm rests, etc.). If the chair is battery-powered, remove the batteries before moving it. Make sure the foot rests are locked and the motor is off. If a seatbelt is available, secure the person in the chair.

For more tips on disability personal preparedness, read this FEMA pamphlet.

May 26, 2022