Evacuation Guidelines

All Dickinson College students, faculty, and staff are responsible for familiarizing themselves with emergency procedures in their work areas, classrooms, and/or living areas. This includes locations of fire alarm pull stations, emergency exits, fire extinguishers, emergency assembly areas, shelter in-place locations and more.  More safety and emergency information can be found on each building’s Emergency Quick Reference Guides.

Personal Evacuation Plans

This information provides a general guideline of evacuation procedures for persons with disabilities for fire and other building emergencies. Students, faculty, staff, and visitors are advised to develop their own personal evacuation plan from each facility they utilize on campus and to identify their primary and secondary evacuation routes from each building.

Emergency evacuation plans should include:

  • Being familiar with evacuation options

  • Seeking evacuation assistants who are willing to assist in case of an emergency. Assistants should never presume that a person wants or needs assistance: ask permission before touching another person or assuming that they need your assistance.

  • Asking supervisors, instructors, Risk Management, or Access and Disability Services about evacuation plans for buildings.

Most Dickinson College buildings have accessible exits at the ground level floor that can be used during an emergency. In some Dickinson buildings, occupants may need to use stairways to reach building exits. Do not use elevators when there is a fire or when the fire alarm has been activated; activation of the fire alarm causes the elevator to recall to a designated floor in most instances, which is usually the ground floor of a building. Upon arrival, the elevator door opens and the elevator is no longer operable by the occupants.

Evacuation options:

Persons without a mobility impairment must evacuate the building using the nearest exit. Persons with a mobility impairment have four basic evacuation options:

  1. Horizontal evacuation: using building exits to the outside ground level or going into unaffected wings of multi-building complexes (e.g., Tome to Rector). 
  2. Stairway evacuation: using steps to reach ground level exits from the building.
  3. Shelter-in-Place: unless danger is imminent, remaining in a room with an exterior window, a telephone, and a solid or fire resistant door. With this approach, the person should immediately contact 911 or the Department of Public Safety at 717-245-1111 and reporting their location directly. Phone lines are expected to remain in service during most building emergencies. If the phone lines fail, the individual can signal from the window by waving a cloth or other visible object or by attempting to reach 911 or Public Safety on their cellphone, if available.

    The Shelter-in-Place approach may be more appropriate for sprinkler protected buildings or buildings where an "area of refuge" is not nearby or available. It may also be more appropriate for an occupant who is alone when the alarm sounds. A "solid" or fire resistant door can be identified by a fire label on the jam and frame. Non-labeled 1 ¾ inch thick solid core wood doors hung on a metal frame also offer good fire resistance.
  4. Area of refuge: with an evacuation assistant, go to the building’s emergency assembly area (outside).  If you cannot, send your assistant to notify the emergency personnel of your location. Emergency personnel will determine if further evacuation is necessary.  Usually, the safest areas of refuge are pressurized stair enclosures common to high-rise buildings, and open air exit balconies.

Disability Guidelines

Prior planning and practicing of emergency evacuation routes are important in assuring a safe evacuation.

Mobility Impaired - Wheelchair

Persons using wheelchairs should evacuate horizontally if at all possible. If horizontal evacuation is not possible, then a wheelchair user should consider shelter-in-place, or move to an area of refuge with their assistant when the alarm sounds. The evacuation assistant should then proceed to the emergency assembly area outside the building and tell the responding emergency personnel or Dickinson Public Safety Officer the location of the wheelchair user. If the wheelchair user is alone, the person should phone emergency services at 911 with their present location and the pre-identified area of refuge where they are going, if applicable.

If a stairwell landing is chosen as the area of refuge, please note that many campus buildings have relatively small stair landings, and wheelchair users are advised to wait until the heavy traffic has passed before entering the stairway.

Only trained, professional, emergency response personnel should conduct stairway evacuation of a wheelchair user. Only in situations of extreme danger should untrained people attempt to evacuate wheelchair users. Moving a person in a wheelchair down stairs is never safe and may cause severe bodily harm to both the lifter and the rider.  Call 911 for assistance.

Mobility Impaired - Non Wheelchair

Persons with mobility impairments who are able to walk independently may be able to negotiate stairs in an emergency with minor assistance. If danger is imminent, the individual should wait until the heavy traffic has cleared before attempting the stairs. If there is no immediate danger (detectable smoke, fire, or unusual odor), the person with a mobility impairment may choose to stay in the building, using the other options, until the emergency personnel arrive and determine if evacuation is necessary. In this case, the person with a mobility impairment should call Dickinson Public Safety or 911 to alert them to their location and request further information to ascertain the necessity of evacuation.

Hearing Impaired

Most buildings on campus are equipped with fire alarm strobe lights; however, some are not. Persons with hearing impairments may not hear audio emergency alarms and will need to be alerted of emergencies. Emergency instructions can be given to a hearing impaired person by writing a short explicit note to evacuate.

Visually Impaired

Most people with a visual impairment will be familiar with their immediate surroundings and frequently traveled routes. Since the emergency evacuation route could be different from the commonly traveled route, persons who are visually impaired may need assistance in evacuating.

Students requiring assistance are encouraged to contact Access and Disability Services to develop a personal evacuation plan.

Employees requiring assistance should discuss with their supervisor (or Department Chair for faculty) for help with developing a personal evacuation plan. If you have additional questions, contact the Department of Compliance & Enterprise Risk Management.

Guidelines for Persons Assisting Occupants with Disabilities

The following general guidelines have been adopted by the college to help individuals with disabilities evacuate in emergency situations. However, these guidelines may not apply in every circumstance due to specific individual needs. It is important to remember that evacuation is difficult and uncomfortable for both the assistants and the people being assisted. Some people have conditions that can be aggravated or triggered if they are moved incorrectly. It is also important to know that environmental conditions (smoke, debris, loss of electricity) will complicate evacuation efforts. Before attempting to evacuate a person with a disability, consider your options and the risk of injury to yourself and others. Do not make an emergency situation worse.

  • Assistants should be invited to volunteer ahead of time to assist persons with disabilities in an emergency.  A "buddy system", where persons with disabilities pre-identify volunteers (co-workers/roommates) to alert them and assist them in an emergency, is a good method. Conversely, building occupants should check on people with disabilities who may have difficulty evacuating independently.
  • Always ask someone with a disability how you can help before attempting any rescue technique or giving assistance. Ask how they can best be assisted or moved, and whether there are any special considerations or items that need to come with them.
  • Two or more volunteers, if available, should conduct the evacuation.
  • Do not evacuate persons down the stairs in their wheelchairs. This is standard practice to ensure the safety of persons with disabilities and volunteers.
  • Before attempting an evacuation, volunteers and the people being assisted should discuss how any lifting will be done and where they are going. Except in situations immediately dangerous to life and health, only trained emergency response personnel should lift people.
  • Use proper lifting techniques to avoid injury (e.g. bending the knees, keeping the back straight, holding the person close before lifting, and using leg muscles to lift).
  • Do not use elevators unless authorized to do so by police or fire personnel. Elevators could fail during a fire.
  • If the situation is life threatening, call 911.
  • Attempt a rescue evacuation only if you have had rescue training or the person is in immediate danger and cannot wait for professional assistance.

Assisting a Person Who is Blind or Has a Visual Impairment

Give verbal instructions to advise about the safest route or direction using compass directions, estimated distances, and directional terms.

  • Do not grasp a visually impaired person’s arm. Ask if he or she would like to hold onto your elbow or arm as you exit, especially if there is debris or a crowd.
  • Give other verbal instructions or information (i.e. elevators cannot be used).

Assisting a Person Who is Deaf or Has a Hearing Impairment

  • Get the attention of a person with a hearing impairment by touch and eye contact. Clearly present the problem. Gestures and pointing are helpful, but be prepared to write a brief statement if the person does not seem to understand.
  • Offer visual instructions to advise of safest route or direction by pointing toward exits or evacuation maps.

Assisting a Person with a Mobility Impairment

It may be necessary to help clear the exit route of debris (if possible) so that the person with a mobility impairment can move out or to a safer area.

  • If people with mobility impairments cannot exit, they should move to a safer area, e.g., most enclosed stairwells, an office with the door shut which is a good distance from the hazard
  • If you do not know the areas of refuge (Shelter In-Place) in your building, contact Risk Management at x1029.
  • Notify campus police or emergency responders immediately about any people remaining in the building and their locations.
  • Police or fire personnel will decide whether people are safe where they are and will evacuate them as necessary. The responding fire department may determine that it is safe to override the rule against using elevators.

Additional Information

We recognize the aforementioned information is only a starting point for assisting those with disabilities during an evacuation. Those with questions or concerns are encouraged to have a conversation with Risk Management, Access and Disability Services, Department of Public Safety, or Human Resources. For more information regarding evacuation and safety for individuals with disabilities, click the following links: