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Emergency Evacuation Procedure For Faculty, Staff and Students with Disabilities

Swarthmore College has a strong commitment to provide for the safety of all faculty, staff and students when an emergency requires evacuation. For those members of the community with a disability the College is committed to providing additional assistance if required to effectively alert, evacuate, and/or shelter them during an emergency. In order to be successful in providing this assistance, the Emergency Evacuation Procedure (EEP) requires the cooperation of every member of the College community. Some members of the community will be specially trained to identify and assist persons who may need aid in an emergency.

Personal Emergency Plans

Individuals with disabilities may require additional assistance with alerting, evacuating, and sheltering in the event of an emergency. The College stresses the importance of self-identifying so that a personal emergency plan that includes specific evacuation procedures, sheltering procedures, and means of communication in the event of an emergency, can be developed.

Self-Identification with the College

During the hiring process, an inquiry is made of all faculty and staff regarding the need for evacuation assistance. To further ensure all individuals needing assistance are reached, notice is sent annually to all faculty and staff as a reminder to self-identify if necessary. Students are canvassed at the beginning of each academic year to determine if they will require assistance in an emergency. Supervisors may also ask an employee who has self-identified as disabled or has a known or obvious disability if he or she will require assistance in the event of an emergency.

Individuals who self-identify as needing assistance during an emergency must complete the Emergency Evacuation Referral Form that provides the College with information needed in the development of a personal evacuation plan. The Referral Form is available on the following websites: Physical Access and Learning Support, Human Resources and the Office of Student Disability Services. The Department of Public Safety and the Office of Residential Life can also help individuals locate the referral form and address questions or provide the form in alternate formats.

All employees, including faculty, other academic personnel, and staff must return the Emergency Evacuation Referral Form to:

Theresa Maguire
Employee Relations Manager
Human Resources Office
Pearson Hall 04
Swarthmore College
500 College Avenue
Swarthmore, PA 19081

All students must return the Emergency Evacuation Referral Form to:
Leslie Hempling
Office of Student Disability Services
Parrish 130
Swarthmore College
500 College Avenue
Swarthmore, PA 19081

Once an employee or student submits a Referral form, the Employee Relations Manager and the Coordinator of Student Disability Services will notify the Department of Public Safety. For students, the Associate Dean of Students is also notified. If the student resides in College housing, the Coordinator of Student Disability Services will also inform the Housing Coordinator.

Any individual requiring assistance must update his/her self-identification information: annually, no later than September 30, of each calendar year; or whenever circumstances warrant an update (e.g., changes in his or her condition that would require a change in assistance).

In addition to submitting an Emergency Evacuation Referral Form, any employee or student needing assistance is encouraged to share information with others within the College community about his or her need for assistance during an emergency. Such notification is intended to supplement proper identification using the Emergency Evacuation Referral Form.

Personal Emergency Plans

Once an individual submits an Emergency Evacuation Referral Form, The Department of Public Safety will work with the individual, his or her supervisor, the Housing Coordinator (if applicable), and the relevant Resident Assistant to develop a personal emergency plan that includes specific means of communication, evacuation procedures and sheltering procedures in the event of an emergency. This plan will include:

  • Identifying the safest area located on each floor within the building to which a person with disabilities can be moved or directed to await assistance from emergency response personnel; and
  • Designating a means to inform emergency response personnel (e.g., police, fire) of the locations of any person(s) requiring assistance.

A copy of all personal emergency plans will be located in the Office of Public Safety for each building the individual is reasonably expected to routinely occupy (e.g. office classroom, dormitory, library, dining facility, etc.). The campus interactive map will display all safe areas and fire stair towers in campus buildings, so that either an individual with a disability or an assistant would be able to study locations in advance.

Evacuation Procedures

Personal evacuation plans will serve as the first-line of defense to ensure the safety of individuals with disabilities. The following provides further guidance for emergency procedures for persons with disabilities. This information is supplemental and is not meant to replace the proper planning and training included in a personal emergency plan.

College procedures require all persons, including those with disabilities, to evacuate a facility anytime the fire alarm system is activated. Depending upon the facility and type of disability, a person with disabilities may have the following evacuation options:

  • Horizontal evacuation (e.g., going from one building into a connected, adjacent building on the same level);
  • Vertical (e.g., stairway) evacuation; Evacuation chairs are located in the Performing Arts Center, and the Lang Concert Hall
  • Proceeding to a Safe Area (fire stairwell) or Area of Rescue Assistance (2 -hour fire-rate area with communication) to await evacuation; or
  • Staying in place to await evacuation (e.g., office, classroom).

Move to a Safe Area or Area of Rescue Assistance

Individuals with mobility impairments may not be able to exit a building without help from fire, police, or other emergency personnel. Persons who are unable to evacuate should await evacuation assistance in designated rescue locations such as a Safe Area or Area of Rescue Assistance.

Stay in Place

In circumstances where evacuation is not possible and relocation to a Safe Area or an Area of Rescue Assistance is not practical (e.g., pathway impeded), it is recommended that a person with a disability stay in place (e.g., office, dormitory room). It is the responsibility of every member of the College community to immediately communicate to the Department of Public Safety and emergency personnel the location of individuals unable to evacuate. In addition, if possible, the person with disabilities should telephone Public Safety immediately to further ensure that on-site emergency personnel will receive the information as soon as possible.

Note: Elevators are never to be used in the event of a fire without explicit authorization by fire or police personnel. Further, stairway evacuations of individuals who use wheelchairs may be hazardous to disabled individuals, rescuers, and others attempting to evacuate and should not be attempted by untrained personnel. Individuals with mobility impairments who are able to walk independently or with assistance may be able to negotiate stairs. However, if danger is imminent, the individual should wait until heavy traffic has cleared before attempting the stairs.


The Department of Public Safety will train resident assistants, supervisors, and facility managers in identifying and assisting persons who may need assistance in an emergency and the location of designated safe areas, as well as:

  • Contents of this policy and procedure;
  • Fire safety procedures;
  • Process to assess surroundings in an emergency
  • Process to assist individuals with disabilities without causing injury should the need become necessary;
  • Procedures to communicate with the individual; and
  • Understanding what equipment needs to be evacuated with the person with a disability or where back-up supplies (e.g., wheelchairs, oxygen) can be obtained.

Students will receive fire safety and evacuation information during orientation. Students living in College dormitory housing will also participate in fire drills.

Practice will instill confidence in one's ability to cope in an emergency while ensuring that appropriate lifesaving actions will be taken during a real emergency. Practice consists of walk-through procedures, tabletop exercises, announced drills, or unannounced drills.

Communication and Alerting Procedures

The College requires all College faculty, students, and employees to supply emergency contact information on mySwarthmore so that they may be contacted via ConnectEd, the College's electronic emergency-notification system. This system enables College officials to reach members of the College community by rapidly transmitting short notifications by email, voice mail and text to up to 5 contacts per individual, including e-mail, alternate e-mail, cell phone, office/dorm phone.

It is also recommended that any person with a disability who will need assistance during an emergency evacuation and might be in a building after regular work hours, or at times when others are not usually present, notify Public Safety of his/her location including the building, floor, room, and time of arrival and departure.

Further Guidance for Persons with Disabilities

The Role of Public Safety and the Swarthmore Fire Department

The Department of Public Safety and the Swarthmore Fire Department will be the first-responders to all campus emergencies, including those requiring evacuation. They will enter a building during an emergency in order to facilitate the safe evacuation of all occupants. If possible, they will conduct a floor-by-floor search in order to locate those individuals who are unable to exit the building safely, including a search of all Safe Areas and Areas of Rescue Assistance. The Department of Public Safety will serve as the primary point of contact for responding emergency personnel.

During an Emergency

Individuals with communication disabilities may be unable to obtain necessary evacuation information from standard auditory fire alarms or public address systems. As a consequence, hearing and visually impaired individuals may need to be alerted and given further instruction in emergency situations by rescue assistants or others. Nearby assistants, faculty, staff, or students should also offer assistance to visually impaired individuals who may need help negotiating unfamiliar routes during an emergency evacuation.

During an emergency, Public Safety and the Swarthmore Fire Department will attempt to check all locations, including restrooms, to communicate the need to evacuate. If forced to stay in place during an emergency, the person with a disability should attempt to contact Public Safety at extension 8333 to notify them of his or her location, in addition to asking others who are evacuating to alert Public Safety. Public Safety will then dispatch an officer to the location to assist with the evacuation.

It is strongly recommended that persons with disabilities acquire additional alerting devices to draw attention to themselves during an emergency. Cell phones, pagers, and loud whistles are effective tools for drawing attention or for contacting emergency personnel.

Confidentiality Statement

The College complies with all applicable confidentiality requirements. Therefore, on a need to know basis only, emergency, safety personnel, and other College representatives will be informed if an individual with a disability might require help with alerting, evacuating, or sheltering during an emergency.

Contact Information and Emergency Numbers

Police, Fire, and Ambulance Assistance From any College phone x8333
From any Non-College phone 610-328-8333

Swarthmore College Department of Public Safety
Benjamin West House
610-328-8330 Business Hours
610-328-8281 After Business Hours

Rachel Head
Housing Coordinator
Parrish 110

Theresa Maguire
Employee Relations Manager
Human Resources Office
Pearson Hall 04

Leslie Hempling
Coordinator for Students Disability Services
Parrish 113

Susan Smythe
ADA Program Manager
Service Building