Everything you need to know about Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans

20 Aug, 2020

What is a PEEP?

Every company with five or more employees has a legal obligation to document their Emergency Procedures, including the Emergency Evacuation Plan for egressing the premises in the event of a fire or other emergency.

A PEEP (Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan) may be required for persons with any number of long-term physical or mental disabilities.

A temporary PEEP may be required for conditions that may affect a subjects mobility or egress in an emergency situation: Short term injuries (e.g. a broken leg), or for temporary physiological / medical conditions such as those in third trimester pregnancy etc.

The aim of the PEEP is to assess the escape route for the subject, ascertaining their needs and abilities and how they fit into the current standard Emergency Evacuation Plan. The PEEP evaluates what additional needs and considerations are required to assist the subject in reaching safety within a reasonable time. The PEEP also explores how the subject is alerted to an emergency situation and communicated with throughout; for example a deaf subject may utilise a vibrating pager or visual alarm beacon to alert them of an emergency situation.

The underlying question in deciding whether a PEEP is necessary is; “Can you evacuate the building unaided, in a prompt manner, during an emergency situation?” If the answer is “no”, then it is likely that a PEEP is needed for this individual to highlight any additional needs and appropraite support they require.

If the subject cannot reach the designated safe area within a reasonable time (e.g. 3 minutes or less in an average sized building), then appropriate contingencies should be set out to keep the subject safe until the emergency services arrive or to enable the subject to get to a safe location, e.g. a safe assembly area / point.

Associated Documents:

Pre-PEEP Checklist -Document sent to the Client prior to the assessment to ensure that the subject is informed of the assessment and are available and to glean as much information about the building and subject as possible prior to attending site.

Sites Emergency Plan, including evacuation procedure/s – Review of relevant on site documentation, either remotely or in person during the site visit.

All relevant legal documents- ACOP’s, Guidance Notes, Acts, British/European standards and other legislation surrounding the Health and Safety of residents/employees, particularly those detailing emergency evacuation and fire safety.

Disability

It should be noted that not all disabilities are clearly apparent, and each disability affects each subject differently, you should not make assumptions but allow the subject to express their capabilities and needs to you.

People with cognitive disabilities can often experience problems comprehending what is happening in escape conditions or may not have the same perceptions of risk as other people. Provision of good orientation, facilities and measures within the building is essential. There may be reluctance by some to take an unknown route from the building. Some people with cognitive disabilities may fall into the group of unknown disabilities, such as dyslexia, dyspraxia and autism. Such people may not always be aware of their condition or be aware of the urgency of an emergency situation.

The PEEP should be thoroughly explained to the subject as best as possible and carers should discuss the PEEP frequently with the subject to ensure understanding. Regular discussions about their requirements in an emergency situation should give the subject the opportunity to understand the possible need for choice and direction change during an escape.

Defining ‘Disability’– This could include but is not limited to;

  • Mobility- wheelchair (powered or manual), Zimmer-frame, crutches, walking stick, slow movement etc.
    • Visual impairment- Blindness, hard of sight, seeing-eye-dog, white-stick, photosensitivity etc.
    • Hearing impairment – Deafness, hard of hearing etc.
    • Cognitive or behavioural impairment- Learning difficulties, mental health issues, autism, Alzheimer’s, confusion/fear etc.
    • Other medical issues- subjects using; oxygen tanks, intravenous drips, subjects suffering: shakes/seizures, asthma, heart disease, respiratory illness etc.
    • Other persons not identifying as ‘disabled’ may also require or benefit from a PEEP such as the elderly, later stage expectant mothers and the young.

GDPR (General Data Protection Regulations)

PEEP assessments ask specific and personal medical information about the subject, (though the specifics of the disabilities are to be avoided focusing instead on the subjects needs and requirements.) Good data protection practices must be followed. Health data is considered sensitive data and is subject to particularly strict rules. Therefore, the organisation shall take the necessary measures to ensure that health data is protected and not subject to any unauthorised disclosure.

Escape Plan requirements

The PEEP needs to follow the existing emergency evacuation plan as closely as possible. It needs to detail what the subject does from point of the alarm being raised to the point of reaching safety outside the building.

  • On hearing / seeing the alarm- can the subject be easily notified of an emergency?
  • Leaving the demise (residential property or place of work) into a common area.
  • Moving from the common area to ground level (if not already at ground level).
  • Leaving the building to get to the designated assembly area or alternative pre-arranged nearby safe location (safe refuge point)
  • Returning to the property once / if all is declared safe.

It may be the case that some PEEPs have fewer or more stages, depending on the layout of the building and the abilities/needs of the subject.

Protected Escape Routes

A protected escape route may consist of a corridor or stair enclosure which, once entered, will lead directly to a place of safety via an emergency exit.

The escape route is separated from the rest of a building by fire-resisting construction, providing a minimum fire resistance of 60 minutes. Access to the escape routes is by ‘Fire Doors’ which provide a minimum fire resistance of 30 minutes. These doors are fitted with self-closing devices capable of closing the doors from all angles of opening and successfully closes within 25seconds or less.

Once inside a protected escape route, you are deemed to be in a place of safety.

In order to maintain a satisfactory standard:

  • No combustible material should be stored or sighted within protected stair enclosures (e.g. open notice boards, paper/cardboard stored below stairs etc.)
  • Stairways and corridors are to be kept free from obstruction (e.g. no equipment is to be installed, left or stored within these areas that may hinder egress through the emergency exit route)
  • A programme of inspection to ensure that all fire doors function properly and that any defects are immediately identified and repaired.

Potential Contingencies

There are many contingencies that could be put in place to assist the subject in maintaining safety during an emergency evacuation. These include but are not limited to:

  • Stay put policy / plan – If the demise is fire proofed/compartmentalised suitably to provide adequate protection for a minimum of 30 minutes fire stopping, it may be best practice and the safest option for the subject to stay in their demise. Any subject on a stay put policy / plan must be detailed in the emergency evacuation and fire plan, and the emergency services notified by the client.
  • Assisted egress –If there is a colleague, neighbour, carer, Fire Marshal, Building Manager etc. who is readily available and willing to assist the subject in evacuating. This ‘Buddy system’ is only effective if all persons are fully aware of their duties, responsibilities and expectations. It is important to consider holidays/sickness/absences of the assisting person and for there to be a suitable alternative (‘Back-up’) to make assisted egress a viable option.

Some wheelchair users are strong and skilled enough to tip on their axis and travel down the stairs in this way. Others can do this with assistance. Where this method of escape is considered, expert training will be required, and the technique should be practiced regularly. This method is only acceptable for short flights of stairs.

Electrically powered wheelchair users may have less mobility than people who use manual wheelchairs. It is wise to allow the escape of all other groups of disabled people in the building to ensure that there are a sufficient number of staff to assist powered wheelchair users.

People who are visually impaired are helped to escape by the provision of good signage and other orientation clues. It should be noted that many visually impaired people have some sight, and that they may be able to use this during the escape in order to make their own way out of the building. The provision of a high-powered torch may be useful. If the ‘Buddy System’ is used, it is recommended that the vision impaired person grasps their ‘Buddy’s’ elbow, as this will enable the person being assisted to walk half a step behind and thereby gain information about doors and steps.

  • Safe Refuge areas – A safe refuge is an area normally sited within an enclosure such as a protected lobby, protected corridor or protected stairway, which provides a temporary safe area for people who will not be able to use stairways without assistance. The refuge area must be suitably fire stopped for a minimum of 30mins, so that the subject can await the emergency services.

The refuge needs to be big enough to allow wheelchair use, and to allow the user to manoeuvre into the wheelchair space without undue difficulty.

A means of communication must be provided so that the person requiring assistance can contact those people who have been designated to provide assistance. This could be by fixed telephone at the safe refuge point, a mobile phone, a two-way radio link etc.

It is essential that the location of any wheelchair spaces within a corridor or stair enclosure does not adversely affect the means of escape for other people by narrowing the escape route width. In circumstances where the refuge area identified for a wheelchair user may restrict the free passage of others trying to evacuate the building, the area may still be suitable for use as a refuge providing that the wheelchair is manoeuvred into position after other persons have left that part of the building.

Refuge areas need to be appropriately identified with signage and local fire services notified by the client and details of refuge area and PEEPs added to the fire file and emergency plans.

  • Specialist evacuation equipment – It may be necessary for additional equipment to be purchased and installed, this may include but not limited to;
  • Lifting sling / hoist
  • Evac chair
  • Ramps
  • Visual/audio personal alarms
  • Pagers or mobile telephone apps
  • Other specialist equipment.

Specialist equipment may add up to be a substantial cost and can only be recommended to the client. In the event that specialist emergency equipment is deemed the best solution then it is important that an appropriate inspection and servicing regime of the equipment is implemented by the client. All staff on site expected to use special emergency equipment need to be fully trained in its use, as would any third-party carer of the subject who would be required to use the equipment in the event of an emergency. Records of this inspection and training must be maintained and kept by the client.

The Assessment:

Before attending the site:

  • Pre-PEEP checklist to be sent to Client at least a week before the assessment;
    • View the property on Google Maps/Earth to gain familiarity with the site and see potential issues before attending;
    • Review of Emergency Procedure and Evacuation Plan/s;
    • Check any previous PEEPs for the subject and see if there are any PEEPs available of other employees/residents in the same building;
    • What communication does the Client have with the subject/resident/employee? Is a carer or interpreter required?;
    • Check if the subject/resident/employee has a carer (part time or full time, and their contact details if appropriate);
    • Details of any known obstacles (temporary or permanent) that may restrict the subject/resident’s egress;
    • Has there been an Fire Risk Assessment? Review this and any other relevant documentation.
    • Have there been any recent evacuation or Emergency Drills? Any issues highlighted?

Requirements

  • The subject should be informed prior to our visit.
  • The visit must be attended by the Client or Client representative.
  • Consultants must have and show their FutureSure ID to the subject of the PEEP.

Attending the site:

Liaise with the Client representative at the site. All PEEP assessments MUST be accompanied for the consultants’, clients’ and subjects’ safety and wellbeing.

With the client representative/building manager, discuss:

  1. the building/s
  2. the standard emergency evacuation procedure
  3. Fire/emergency assembly point
  4. any other residents with PEEPs

Walk the common areas of the site from the safe emergency assembly point outside the building to the subjects demise (their home or regular place of work) observing any obstacles in the evacuation route. Make note of stairways, lifts, doors, steps, changes in level, turns, narrow areas, handrails etc.

Allow the client, who is likely more familiar with the subject, to initiate contact, introduce you and outline the PEEP assessment before you begin.

Consultants MUST have their FutureSure ID photo ID for all PEEP assessments.

Work through the assessment with the subject where this is possible, discuss their personal requirements, focus on needs and capabilities on evacuating the demise to a safe area only. Be patient and understanding at all times. Do not focus on the impairment/disability.

Assess the needs of the subject; whilst the subject’s disability may have been raised as a concern and triggered a PEEPs assessment, it could well be that the subject is in fact perfectly able to get to the designated safe area within a reasonable time. It is important to ask this at the beginning of the assessment, as it may be appropriate that an ad hoc evacuation drill be carried out. If the subject evidences their ability to evacuate without issue, then there need not be any further recommendations or contingencies put in place for the subject. In this instance the findings should be documented on the PEEP assessment. And still reviewed annually to assess/monitor any changes.

Remember this is a potentially vulnerable persons safe space, whilst you’re there to help them you may still be asked to leave. If at any time you are asked to leave, do so immediately and politely do not question, explain or argue.

Whilst this isn’t a full Risk Assessment or Fire Risk Assessment because you are assessing the access/egress routes for an emergency situation any significant hazards posing risk to the tenants, clients, contractors, visitors or members of the public on the evacuation route must be noted, pictures taken and details reported to the Client within the PEEP report. If there are multiple fire safety or general safety risks observed it may be suitable to recommend that a full Risk Assessment or Fire Risk Assessment is carried out.

Communication – It may be that the subject’s disability or other contributing factors such as language may make verbal communication hard or not possible. In this event it is hoped that the Client and/or carer would have a suitable method of communication with the subject: computer, interpreter, written communication etc. If communication is not possible the assessment can still be carried out, but it must be noted in the report that direct communication to the subject was not possible. There must be full understanding of the PEEP by the Client and any other affected persons required to carry out the PEEP and assisting the subject in an emergency situation.

If the subject is unable to hear or see the alarm how will they know there is a problem? If there are no measures in place for alerting the subject of an emergency, appropriate measures need to be implemented immediately.

Once the interview with the subject has been conducted then walk back to the refuge area or safe assembly area following the proposed emergency evacuation route keeping the subjects specific needs in mind. It may be beneficial if the subject can join the consultant for this evacuation walkthrough, though in many cases this will not be suitable/possible.

In describing how the plan will allow the subject to reach a place of safety, describe in detail how the assistance will be given from each part of the route to the assembly point outside of the building.

Once the evacuation walkthrough has been carried out and any hazards, Critical Control Points, control measures and contingencies have been suggested and agreed with the Client, then the plan must be drawn up in writing by the consultant.

After the assessment

Explain to the subject what they are asked to do in the event of a fire or other emergency detailing the plan in a way they clearly understand. If there are communication problems, it is important that the details are written down clearly and that the Client and any carers understand what is expected of themselves and the subject. Ensure that the subject understands that if they feel there is any change to their needs, condition or the building affecting them or their egress from the building that they must notify the Client.

If it is deemed that the PEEP would not be understood or carried out correctly/safely by the subject then the plan is not effective/sufficient and this must be relayed to FutureSure at the earliest opportunity.

Consider: If the local ‘Fire and Rescue Service’ need to be informed of the findings of the PEEP, This would be the responsibility of the Client and words to that effect should be included in the report.

Review

The PEEP should be reviewed annually as standard by the client and FutureSure.

The Client can ask for review if there have been any significant changes to the building premises or to the evacuation procedure.

The subject can ask for a review if their condition or needs change.