Guidelines for Emergency Building Evacuation: Persons with Disabilities

This page will acquaint you with procedures to follow, should you need to evacuate a building during an emergency. Please take a few minutes to read and become familiar with these guidelines, given that time is generally not available during an emergency to learn evacuation procedures.

Responsibilities of Persons with Disabilities

It is your responsibility to seek out and develop a personal support network. A support network consists of individuals who can assist you when needed. Identify a minimum of three people at each location where you regularly spend a significant part of your week: classes, residence, job, volunteer site, etc. Choose a dependable person(s) who have the physical and emotional ability to safely assist you in leaving the building and who will inform emergency personnel of your presence and where you are located, if you are unable to leave. Program the University Public Safety & Police Services telephone number, 610-683-4001, into your cell phone and keep your cell phone with you at all times.

Pre-Emergency Preparation

Be prepared to explain how and where the person(s) should support you. Practice instructions on how you will be assisted before an emergency occurs. In an emergency situation, it is critical to your health and safety that you are familiar with your needs during an emergency evacuation.

Follow the guidelines below:

Persons with visual impairments

  • Be familiar with the location of exits in each building. Persons with visual impairments may request orientation to safe exits each semester from their volunteers.

  • Take your helper's upper arm and ask the helper to advise you of any obstacles you may encounter.

  • When you have reached safety, ask to be oriented as to your location and/or escorted to emergency personnel if further assistance is required.

Persons with hearing impairments

  • If you are unable to perceive emergency alarms and if a visual alarm signal is not available, someone in the room or building should know that you will need to be addressed individually. Request an alternative warning, such as a written note or a flashing of the light switch be provided.

  • Be familiar with emergency exit routes and the location of exit doors. Leave the building immediately using the closest/safest exit.

Persons with mobility impairments

  • Volunteers in your personal support network should assist you in evacuating the building.

  • If you cannot safely evacuate the building, request to be positioned at the safest stair tower or Area of Rescue Assistance until emergency responders arrive to assist you.

  • While in class, position yourself near a doorway for easier exit. Do not block the doorway.

  • Ask your volunteer to immediately inform emergency personnel of your location.

Persons with communication impairments

  • Persons who cannot speak loudly should carry a whistle or have another means of attracting the attention of rescue personnel.

  • If you have communication difficulties, place an easily visible sign on your chair with instructions on how you can be assisted.

  • While in class, position yourself near a doorway for easier exit. Do not block the doorway.

  • Ask your volunteer to immediately inform emergency personnel of your location.

Areas of rescue assistance

Areas of rescue assistance are designated places where people with disabilities remain temporarily in safety to await further instructions or assistance.

Areas of rescue assistance have a two-way communications intercom at each location. The intercom becomes functional when the fire alarm system activates. The person needing assistance must press a button to send the call for help to the intercom control station, which is located near the fire alarm. Either the police or other emergency responder can converse with the person requiring assistance through the intercom system.

The following are designated areas of rescue assistance:

  • DeFrancesco Building - Between the old and new wings of the building on the ground floor and second floor.
  • Rohrbach Library - The stair tower in the northwest corner of the building on the first and second floor.
  • Graduate Center - The second floor inside the stairwell in the rear of the building and the second floor inside the conference room off the rotunda.
  • Dixon Hall - Central stair towers in Dixon Hall north and south buildings, on each floor, landing second through sixth floors.

Fire Emergency

In the event of a fire or notification of fire by voice, alarm, or an individual, it is important that the following guidelines are followed to ensure your safety:

  • If a fire is in the room where you are located, exit the area immediately, closing the door behind you.

  • If you are in a classroom or office when the alarm sounds, feel the door. If it is hot, do not open it. Stay inside and call or attract someone's attention for help.

  • Activate the fire alarm, if not already sounding.

  • Evacuate the building immediately by proceeding to the CLOSEST AND SAFEST EXIT. If you need assistance, go to the Areas of Rescue Assistance where emergency personnel can locate and assist you to safety.

  • Report the fire by calling Public Safety & Police Services: dial 610-683-4001. Remain on the phone until you are told to hang up.

Building Evacuation 

Self-Assisted / Ambulatory Individual

If the path to the exit is clear, and you are able to self-evacuate:

  • Go to the nearest/safest exit and leave the building.

  • If the nearest exit is smoke-filled or compromised in any way, go to an alternate exit and evacuate immediately.

  • If primary and alternate exits are smoke-filled, distance yourself from the smoke and flames.

    If you require assistance
    • Notify the volunteer in your support network to assist you in exiting the building.

    • If you are located on a floor without an accessible exit, request they guide you to the stairwell and wait until it is clear to move down to the exit.

    • If you become tired or unable to continue, move to the next landing and remain there, changing procedures to Assisted/Non-Ambulatory Evacuation listed below.

Assisted / Non-Ambulatory Individual

  • Volunteers you have previously identified will assist you in evacuating the building. 

  • If buddies cannot safely evacuate you from a clear stair tower, you will be positioned at the stair tower or Help Area until rescue personnel arrive to assist you. Call Public Safety & Police Services via an emergency phone or by cell phone (610) 683-4001 [Program this number into your phone now.]

  • If the hazard becomes life-threatening, request to be moved into the stairwell, close the door and remain on the landing until help arrives.

  • Make sure someone is going to meet Public Safety Officers or the Fire Department to alert them to your location. 

Evac-chairs have been provided to assist non-ambulatory evacuations. These chairs are located for emergency use at:

Public Safety & Police Services

Old Main: Room 15

Library: Main Lobby

Boehm Science Building: 2nd Floor

Deatrick Hall: Lobby

Evacuation Drills

Evacuation drills are conducted in university buildings every six months. Usually, these drills are unannounced, in order for authorities to evaluate response to the evacuation signal in a non-emergency situation.  

Do not ASSUME that every time the fire alarm signal sounds, an evacuation drill is being conducted. 

Respond immediately to all alarm signals and treat them as though there is an actual fire or other emergencies in the building. If you are the volunteer (buddy) of a person with a disability, your response should follow the guidelines listed in this pamphlet up to the point of bringing the person with a disability to the closest and safest exit from which, in a real fire, a safe exit could be made.

Severe Weather/Tornado Warning - Safe Shelter Area

Self-Assisted / Ambulatory Individual Evacuation

  • Staff should guide you to stairwells or elevators as needed. Elevators can be used for moving to safe areas during tornado warnings, but if a power outage occurs while in the elevator, you will be stuck there until rescued.

  • Once the Self-Assisted/Ambulatory person reaches the floor level of the safe area, move to the designated area immediately.

Assisted/Non-Ambulatory Individual Evacuation

  • Staff should assist in moving Assisted/Non-Ambulatory persons to the elevator. These persons should have first priority of using elevators to reach the safe area. Elevators can be used for moving to safe areas during a tornado warning, but if a power outage occurs while in the elevator, you will be stuck there until rescued.

  • Once the Assisted/Non-Ambulatory person reaches the floor level of the safe area, assist them to designated area.

  • If elevator is not working, move individual into stairwell, close door and remain on landing until help arrives. Call Public Safety & Police Services immediately, using emergency phone or cellular phone at 610-683-4001. If Public Safety & Police Services is not immediately available, and there is an immediate risk, building occupants may consider alternate means to assist the impaired individual down the stairs.


Disability Services Office
215 Stratton Administration Building
(610) 683-4108

Kutztown University Environmental Health and Safety
Facilities Maintenance Building
(610) 683-4050

Public Safety & Police Services Communications Center
Old Main Room 15
(610) 683-4001