You are now in the main content area

Evacuation Plans for People Requiring Assistance

There are many types of health conditions and impairments that may affect a person’s ability to safely evacuate a building, including those who:

  • are children;
  • are pregnant;
  • require the use of a wheelchair, walker, crutches or cane;
  • have temporary conditions (e.g. recovery after surgery, breaks or sprains);
  • have vision and/or hearing impairments;
  • have breathing problems;
  • have visible or hidden disabilities;
  • are prone to severe excitability or suffering from claustrophobia; and/or
  • have any limitation that would make using stairwells dangerous to themselves or other evacuees.

Fire wardens are responsible for identifying such persons in advance of an emergency, and must retain an updated list at all times. If you are a person who may require assistance during a building evacuation or drill, please take note of the google sheetfire warden, external link for your area.

For employees with disabilities

Employees are responsible for identifying accommodations needed in the event of an emergency related to a disability that may not be apparent, such as a mental health or chronic condition. However, employees do not need to disclose the particulars of their disability or condition.

This information is discussed between the employee and their leader. Discussion is also required if the working location or job changes, or if an employee experiences any temporary or permanent changes to their accommodation needs.

For leaders of employees with disabilities

Leaders have an important responsibility to discuss emergency information and procedures with all new employees (including internal transfers and promotions), as soon as possible after their start date as part of the onboarding process. (See the PDF fileLeaders' Guide to Onboarding for further details.)

As part of this discussion, employees with disabilities and their leaders should work together to identify any individualized needs related to emergency information and procedures. Discussion is also required if the working location or job changes, or if an employee becomes disabled, whether temporarily (e.g. broken leg) or permanently. To respond to any changing needs, leaders need to review and document individual emergency plans at least once a year.

What you need to do

  • Step 1: Discuss university information and procedures, including how employees find out about emergency situations and what actions are expected in specific types of emergencies.
  • Step 2: Review any department-specific emergency and evacuation plans. Consult your google sheetdepartmental safety officer, external link or google sheetfire warden, external link.
  • Step 3: For each employee requiring accommodation in the event of an emergency, work together to complete the PDF fileIndividualized Accommodation Plans for Emergencies Form. Details around what you need to discuss in making these plans is outlined below.
  • Step 4: Make sure information is available in a format that is accessible for the employee (e.g. in an electronic format that is accessible for those using software such as JAWS, MAC VoiceOver, ZoomText, etc.). For maps, consider tactile formats or arrange for the services of an Orientation and Mobility Instructor through BALANCE for Blind Adults, external link. These services are funded by the government, so there is no cost to Ryerson.
  • Step 5: Provide the employee with a copy of the completed and signed Individualized Accommodation Plans for Emergencies Form. Keep a copy for your files.
  • Step 6: Provide copies of individualized emergency plans, with the employee’s authorization, to the fire warden and any other individuals who have been designated to assist in an emergency. This is so they can take appropriate action in the event of an emergency or when an employee may be working alone, and can advise emergency response teams appropriately (e.g. firefighters, paramedics).
  • Step 7: Review the individualized accommodation plan on an annual basis as well as when there are changes to the employee’s work location, job or disability, etc. Changes must be documented.

Completing the Individualized Accommodation Plans for Emergencies Form

What you need to discuss

e.g. Classrooms, labs, cafeteria, meeting rooms.

e.g. For an audible-only alarm that does not alert someone who is Deaf/deaf or hard of hearing.

e.g. Can the alarm pull station be reached and activated? Can Ryerson Security be contacted by telephone? (Note that it is not necessary to be able to speak with Security when dialing 80 from a Ryerson landline phone. Security will be able to identify where the call is coming from once it is placed.)

e.g. Evacuation of a building, power outage or being stuck in an elevator.

Discuss whether anyone else needs to be involved to work with the employee during an emergency.

Options may include:

  • identifying where to wait safely for help during an emergency if elevators cannot be used;
  • having fire wardens wait for evacuation with an employee during an emergency; and
  • advising emergency response teams such as Ryerson Security and Emergency Services, building security in non-Ryerson buildings, firefighters and paramedics, that assistance is required for evacuation.

Options may include:

  • having a fire warden, leader or an Orientation and Mobility Instructor provide an orientation to the work location and its emergency features (e.g. location of alarm pull stations and emergency exits);
  • asking volunteers and/or fire wardens to account for and guide the employee during an emergency.

Emergency information should be accessible using JAWS, ZoomText, etc.

Options may include:

  • installing visual or vibrating alarms;
  • asking a lab manager, floor fire warden and/or co-worker to volunteer to provide individualized alerts during audible alarms or announcements and communications that would be accessible for people who are Deaf/deaf or hard of hearing, such as written instructions and/or clearly marked updated maps that are readily available in a portable format;
  • arranging for fire wardens and/or other emergency response teams to communicate instructions electronically, including using text message, Twitter or email, or communicating in writing using paper and a pen during an emergency.

Fire wardens should not assume all individuals who are Deaf/deaf or hard of hearing can lip-read or use voice to express themselves in spoken English. Ask the employee to identify their preferred method of communication and whether he/she has a preference around who to work with in an emergency.

Options may include:

  • orientation to evacuation routes to develop familiarity in advance of an emergency;
  • having a fire warden accompany the employee for the first few fire drills; and/or
  • having another employee volunteer to accompany the employee in emergency situations.

Also consider the following:

  • Someone with asthma may need help walking long distances or with stairs, especially if there is smoke, dust, fumes or chemicals in the air.
  • An employee may have a condition such as arthritis, weak knees or hips, or a temporary disability (e.g. a broken leg) that may make it difficult to move quickly down the stairs.
  • An employee with a disability that limits manual dexterity may not be able to pull a fire alarm.
  • A person with a mental health condition may have trouble dealing with high anxiety, panic or stress in an emergency.


Leaders and employees can contact their HR consultant or Heather Willis, accessibility coordinator at or 416-979-5000, ext. 4144.

For questions regarding building evacuations or drills, please contact the google sheetfire warden, external link in your area or Environmental Health and Safety at or 416-979-5000, ext. 553770.