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Personal emergency evacuation procedures

View Birkbeck's main evacuation procedures.

Personal Emergency Evacuation Procedures for people with a disability or long-term medical condition

We are committed to promoting access for people who have a disability or long-term medical condition. This includes consideration of the requirements to enable effective evacuation of our staff, students and visitors from buildings in an emergency. In accordance with the legislation, reasonable adjustments will be made wherever possible to facilitate safe access and egress.

General information concerning emergency evacuation procedures for staff, students and visitors with certain categories of disability or long-term health conditions are contained within this guidance. We recognise that there may be times when people may require more specific adjustments to facilitate their safe evacuation. Therefore, if you feel that the guidance does not cover your particular requirements please contact Student Services if you are a student, speak with your line manager if you are an employee, or speak with your nominated contact if you are a visitor.


  • Birkbeck has a responsibility to ensure safe access and egress for all staff, students and visitors on site.
  • Managers and supervisors have a responsibility to ensure that their staff are familiar with emergency procedures and know how to evacuate effectively and safely.
  • Staff and students have a personal responsibility to ensure they are familiar with emergency evacuation procedures and to make sure they adhere to the guidance.
  • Any member of staff, student or Students' Union employee who invites a visitor, External Examiner, specialist speaker or sub-contractor onto a Birkbeck site, has a responsibility for inducting them and ensuring they are familiar with our emergency evacuation procedures. Where the visitor or sub-contractor coming onto any of our sites has a disability or a long-term health condition they should be given a copy of the Personal Emergency Evacuation booklet and a discussion should be had around their effective and safe evacuation in case of emergency.

Making contact

We encourage staff and students who have a disability or long-term health condition to declare this before joining the university to ensure that adjustments are put in place in a timely manner. If you develop a disability or long-term health condition during your period of study or employment with us, please raise this with the appropriate person/school as soon as possible:

  • Students: contact Student Services.
  • Staff: contact your line manager.

Guidance for visitors with disabilities or long-term health conditions

The following guidance is for visitors with mobility impairments, Blind or sight impairments, Deaf or hearing impairments, cognitive disabilities/those in need of emotional support.

The person engaging the subcontractor or visitor must ensure:

  • the visitor is fully conversant with the emergency evacuation with assembly, including the nearest fire evacuation point
  • the visitor knows where the nearest fire exit and/or refuge point is as appropriate
  • if Deaf they should be accompanied by a hearing member of staff or a friend/ colleague at all times
  • if the person has a cognitive disability (i.e. Autism) they will need familiarising with the escape routes and practice them a few times
  • if they do not fit the criteria for evacuation via the escape chair (see below) then rooms must be found for the proposed activity on the ground floor.

In order for a person to be safely evacuated using the escape chair you must:

  • be physically able to leave your wheelchair and transfer to the escape chair
  • be under the safe operating limit of around 20 stone/127 kg.

Guidance for mobility impaired persons

  • In event of a fire, the lifts must not be used.
  • If you are able to use the stairs safely and effectively, please do so.
  • If you are able to use the stairs but can only do so slowly, for the safety of yourself and others, please wait in the stairwell until the main flow of people has been evacuated before starting down the stairs.
  • If you are unable to use the stairs you will need to go to the nearest 'place of relative safety' usually a stair landing area in buildings with upper floors.
  • Please make yourself aware of places of relative safety in any of the areas/buildings you may be studying or working in.
  • Each stairwell in any Birkbeck building is designated as a 'place of relative safety' or 'refuge point'. Each door that leads onto the stairwell is designed to an appropriate British Standard and gives a minimum 30 minutes protection from fire.

Refuge points

  • In the event of fire alarm activation:
    • Make your way to the refuge point.
    • At each refuge point a communication system has been installed (there are different designs at other sites).
    • When you arrive at the refuge point press the button to call for help. This is a two-way system: you will hear a voice on the other end, this will be the Fire Co-ordinator. Please inform the Fire Co-ordinator if you are unable to use the stairs and may need to use an escape chair.
    • The Fire Co-ordinator will communicate with you as soon as possible during an alarm activation.
    • You will be treated as a priority and they will advise you as to what will happen next.
    • Remain by the communication system and wait for further instructions.
    • In the case of a fire, you will be safe for at least one hour. The Fire Co-ordinator will assess the risk to you and if necessary, will arrange for you to be safely removed using an evacuation chair.
    • There is an induction loop built in to the communicator should you need it.

Escape Chair

  • In all Birkbeck buildings escape chairs will be situated on the ground floor or first floor of the stairwell.
  • When the Fire Co-ordinator has been made aware that there is a person with mobility difficulties they will assess the risk to you and if necessary, send a person trained in the use of the escape chair to the place where you are waiting. The trained person will bring the escape chair to you.
  • You will need to be able to transfer into the escape chair.
  • The trained person will then be able to evacuate you down the stairs to safety.
  • You will be transferred to a chair outside until such time as it is safe for someone to re-enter the building to retrieve your wheelchair or mobility scooter. In order for you to be safely evacuated using the escape chair:
    • It must be physically possible for you to leave your wheelchair and transfer to the escape chair.
    • You must note that the escape chair has a safe operating limit of around 20 stone/127 kg

Hearing Impaired persons - Fire alarm warning (Digital Messaging Service)

We have seen increasingly, that deaf or hard of hearing people principally communicate using their smart phones. Therefore we provide direct fire alarm information to an individual's mobile phone. We use a Digital Messaging Service (DMS), a fire safety product by FIRECO that informs deaf or hard of hearing people (which can be utilised by others such as staff/maintenance) with text alerts.

The system allows deaf and hard of hearing people the freedom to move around buildings without the worry of missing an emergency by being alerted when the fire alarm sounds.

What you need to do to use this service

  • Stage 1: Sign up
    • Local signage informs users about DMS and gives them the number to text and location code to put in that text. Or users can scan the QR code on the posters located around Birkbeck to register.
    • User (staff, student or visitor) sends a text message sending the location code to the DMS number.
    • The user is sent a text message by the server to let them know they are connected to DMS for that location.
  • Stage 2: When the fire alarm sounds
    • Users connected to the specific location receive a text advising them to evacuate.


  • Weekly fire alarm test: the DMS sends a text to a server to check everything is okay.
  • There is a procedure for Estates to carry out weekly fire alarm tests. Users connected to a location will receive a text message during testing.
  • The individual location code and text number are published on the posters around Birkbeck and at the main receptions of Malet Street and Euston Road buildings.

Guidance for Blind or sight impaired persons

  • Make yourself aware of emergency evacuation routes and evacuation points - ask a colleague, fellow student, lecturer or manager to familiarise you with these routes.
  • When you hear a fire alarm activation, and where you are able to, make your way safely and effectively out of the building to the nearest fire assembly point.
  • If you have a guide dog and/or you are likely to be slower in evacuating the building, for your own safety and the safety of others, please remain in the refuge point until the main flow of people has evacuated before you proceed.
  • Where there are people around you when a fire alarm is activated and you need assistance please ask the nearest person to assist you.
  • If you are working alone in a building or out of hours, please make sure you inform security.
  • If you believe you will have difficulties evacuating safely and effectively then you should use the emergency refuge points as explained in the guidance for mobility impaired persons.

Guidance for those with cognitive disabilities/in need of emotional support

  • If you have a cognitive disability (e.g. Autism/Asperger's) or a mental health condition and you believe you may have problems evacuating in an emergency situation, i.e. you may:
    • have difficulty comprehending what is happening
    • react badly when your routine is disrupted
    • have difficulty evacuating by a route that is unknown to you
    • have difficulties being in a situation with lots of people around you
    It may be useful for you to ensure that you have someone with you that can help you evacuate. This could be a friend/fellow student, colleague, lecturer, manager or support worker. This may be a different person at different times depending upon where you are when an alarm is activated.
  • Try to ensure that you have familiarised yourself with routes that you would need to take from each room/building you are likely to be working or studying in, as well as any areas you may use at other times (Library/cafés etc).
  • Make yourself familiar with the routes by practicing them at different times.
  • Make yourself familiar with Birkbeck's fire evacuation procedures.