In Case of Fire

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Emergency evacuation instructions in the right place — at wheelchair height.

Imagine the following scenario. It’s the middle of the night and you are sound asleep. Then you hear a loud noise – a fire alarm. You jump to attention and sit up in bed, and then you realize that you are not at home. You are in a hotel. You think you are on the second floor but you are not sure – you’ve been on the road for a week and all the rooms kind of meld together.

Oh yes, did I also mention that you are in a wheelchair and traveling alone?

You clear your head a bit, put on your glasses and transfer to your wheelchair. You remember your second grader’s field trip to the fire house, and you do what the fire chief told the kids to do – you roll over to the door and feel it. It’s not warm, so you know it’s safe to open it. But where do you go? You look on the door for evacuation instructions and see that they are up high, near the standard peephole. You can’t read them, or even see the map. You know the place of refuge is in the stairwell, but which direction do your turn? So you open the door and hope for the best.

To be honest, this story isn’t out of the realm of imagination. And it popped to my mind during a recent hotel stay. The accessible room at that property actually had the evacuation map on the door in the right pace – at wheelchair height. That way  wheelchair-users can look at it in an an emergency and know the right way to go – they won’t have to guess. I travel for a living, and look at wheelchair-accessible rooms every day, and let me tell you, this in not always the case – in many cases the emergency evacuation instructions are posted too high for a wheelchair-user to see.

This is not acceptable. So this is a open letter to all hotels, motels, and any other property where people stay overnight. Please put your evacuation instructions in a place where a wheelchair-user can easily read them in an emergency. It could be the difference between life and death.

Please share this post, and encourage others to do the same. Let’s get the hospitality industry thinking about the safety of wheelchair-users!

Oh, and the next time you stay in a hotel, do a quick check of the evacuation route after you check in. Sure it will take a few minutes, but it could make a world of difference in an emergency.

Be safe out there!

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