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Health and Safety Services

Emergency Evacuation Information for Persons with Disabilities

Birkbeck seeks to ensure that all persons entering its premises are able to be evacuated safely - should this ever prove to be necessary. Please take note of the following information on our arrangements for your safety.  If you require any further clarification consult your main point of contact at Birkbeck- your tutor, line manager, the conference/accommodation officer or Birkbeck Safety Services at


New staff will receive a health and safety induction via their line manager and Birkbeck Safety Services shortly after commencing employment.  New or existing members of staff with a disability that could delay their recognition of or response to the fire alarm will have a Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan (PEEP) formulated in consultation with them.


Information on Birkbecks's fire evacuation arrangements is issued to all hirers of its premises by the conference / accommodation office.  Hirers with disabled persons amongst their delegates should contact Birkbeck in advance to check what procedures will be in place for relevant delegates.  Failing advance notice, on arrival, Birkbeck main reception should be informed of the presence of delegates with any disability that could delay their recognition or response to a fire alarm.  Information on the evacuation arrangements for such persons will then be given directly - see below for general procedures for disabled evacuation.  Casual visitors who do not advise reception of their presence or who pass reception un-noticed will still not be at significant risk in Birkbeck buildings provided they do not work alone in a remote part of the building outside core opening hours.  Otherwise, in an emergency it is likely that they would be noticed and given appropriate information on whether their evacuation will be necessary and if so, how this will be effected - but the key is really to make one's presence and needs known on arrival.


Schools are responsible for assessing the needs of prospective students.  Schools are best placed to know a student's needs, where their teaching will be carried out, by whom etc and therefore for any student with a disability that might delay their recognition of or response to the fire alarm, it is the school that is responsible for preparing a Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan (PEEP) in conjunction with the student.    However, Birkbeck Health & Safety Services will provide advice and assistance as necessary.  Armed with their PEEP the individual student will then be able to inform any person of the procedure for their evacuation, should this ever be necessary, and not have to rely on others always knowing what to do.

Hearing impaired staff, students & visitors

In the main building - profoundly deaf staff and students can text BBKMALETSTREET to 07797870999 from their mobile phone.  If a fire alarm sounds in the main building they will then be sent a text advising them of this and to leave the building immediately. This system should allow the wearer to go anywhere in the main building and not have to worry about not hearing a fire alarm.  In other Birkbeck buildings, profoundly deaf staff can have a flashing light fitted in their office but students and visitors should not work alone for other than a very short period of time - e.g. a visit to the lavatory - and should take a lead from the actions of others e.g. if classmates, colleague or other visitors begin to evacuate the premises.

Evacuation lifts and chairs

Special arrangements have to be put into effect when it is necessary to evacuate wheelchair users, people on crutches, frail and/or elderly or heavily pregnant women from above or below ground floor level.  Persons with only restricted lower limb mobility should be able to evacuate via the staircases once these are clear - see below.

To avoid unnecessary inconvenience and possible discomfort, only should it prove to be absolutely necessary will persons with very restricted or no lower limb mobility (mainly wheelchair users) be required to leave buildings.  In such a case they will be assisted to do so.  Subject to a risk assessment of the situation prevailing at the time, the evacuation may be by transfer to an evacuation chair or via a lift that is designed to operate more reliably in an emergency - note that not all Birkbeck lifts have such features.

Note. In fire evacuations, should a panic ensue, a person whose restricted mobility might unduly delay the evacuation of others up or down staircases may well be swept aside by the more able bodied.  Accordingly, such persons should be evacuated horizontally (by themselves or by a colleague or a lecturer or member of library staff, etc) to a staircase landing and remain there with a member of staff or colleague while a message is sent ahead to the duty attendant of the building via another colleague or another member of staff to inform trained Birkbeck staff and/or Fire Brigade officers of the situation. Information will then be sent back stating whether an evacuation will actually be necessary - or not e.g. if the situation has been brought under control or was a false alarm in the first place.

If the staircase clears while waiting for a response then those persons whose disability allows them to should start to ascend/descend at their own pace. On no account should such persons attempt to use the lifts.  The use of any lift in an emergency, even those with features that should make them more reliable in such conditions, first requires a risk assessment of the situation at the time by a trained member of staff.  All staircase landings are protected by fire resisting doors. Accordingly, disabled persons and those accompanying them are in places of relative safety while they wait wait for stairs to clear or for assistance with evacuation or indeed the far, far more likely scenario - a returned message saying that an evacuation will not be necessary.

Contacting the duty attendant

In all instances the best method of sending a message about the presence of disabled persons who may require assistance with evacuation is by sending someone in person.  However, all of Birkbeck's offices, its larger classrooms and lecture theatres plus the exits lobbies from the Library are equipped with telephones that can connect directly to main reception at Malet Street just by dialling 555.  Mobile phones do not work in all areas of the College and cannot get through to the 555 system.  The main reception number is 0207 631 6031 but answering this general number will not be a priority for attendant staff during an emergency evacuation.  Remember, the main action to ensure a successful evacuation of a disabled person is for a message to be sent via a colleague stating that information and help is required.

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Health & Safety Services, Birkbeck, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HX. Tel: 020 7631 6218, email: