moderndayathena:This may be a little redundant to add after all that excellent info, but here is my…


This may be a little redundant to add after all that excellent info, but here is my two cents of experience. The school I teach in has five floors and a basement with multiple students (and currently three teachers) in wheelchairs. During fire drills they go to the nearest stairwell and each security guard has a stairwell they go to to see if someone is there who can’t leave the building. They hang out and chat during the drill—but if it was a real fire the guards could carry them out or use their radios to let the admin standing out front to meet the fire trucks know where they are and that they need help. But we make sure our kids know that they are not forgotten and we will make sure they are safe. I am sorry if there is anyone who has ever felt overlooked in that way—you deserve to feel safe in whatever building or situation you are in.


Okay, firefighter here. If you are not physically able to use the stairs, and the elevator is NOT compromised, use the elevator. But you MUST be ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN that the elevator is NOT compromised before you get into it, because there is always the chance that once you get into it, you may not exit it. Power could go out. The elevator may actually BE compromised and you just couldn’t tell from where you were until you were in there, and it suddenly shuts down on you. Something else could happen. 

Understand that once you enter the elevator, you could POTENTIALLY be taking your life into your hands there.

It is NOT LIKELY, to be perfectly honest. It’s only in a pretty catastrophic scenario – think the Twin Towers, USA, on September 11th – that the elevators will be compromised and out of service. But there is a NOT ZERO PERCENT CHANCE and you need to understand that and accept it.

As for leaving the elevators free for the firefighters, okay, here’s the deal. Unless your nearest fire station is literally right next door? Your first on scene fire truck is NOT likely to be there on scene and needing that elevator before you get to the ground. It takes us TIME to find the address, gear up, and drive to the building. Then we need to hoof it into where the elevators even ARE, so YOU HAVE TIME to use the elevator to get down to the ground floor… BUT ONLY IF THERE’S NOT A RUSH ON THE ELEVATOR! And THAT is WHY we don’t tell people this shit. That’s WHY we tell people to NEVER USE THE ELEVATOR… because every self-entitled asshole will use it because they don’t feel like walking, and then put YOU in danger by delaying the elevator’s arrival to you.

IF, however, the elevator IS compromised, or you just can’t get it to come for you, or whatever, and you either don’t have anyone with you who has the adrenaline fueled BALLS to be able to toss you over their shoulder and hoof it down the stairs with you – because, let’s face it, that is RARE AS FUCK, then HERE IS WHAT YOU DO:

You call 911 and tell the call taker that you are in the building that has a fire alarm going off, and you are not able to evacuate because of a physical disability, and you tell them what floor you are on, and EXACTLY what stairwell you are waiting at. And the very FIRST thing that the firefighters are going to do once they arrive, if it is, indeed, a REAL emergency, and not a false alarm, is come get your ass and bring you down. Whether that means carrying you down the stairs, or whether that means locking out the elevators so that no one else can override them and coming to get you themselves, they WILL come get you FIRST THING if it is a real event. And if it is a false alarm? You will probably be the first person who is not involved with the building to know, because the call-taker is going to stay on the line with you until you are under someone’s care and out of danger, or until the scene has been sorted out as real or false, and you are out of danger that way.

These are pretty standard operations in the fire service throughout the United States. There may be some minor variations based on specific municipalities, but, for the most part, this is pretty typical: LIFE BEFORE PROPERTY. So, as long as SOMEONE knows where you are – hence why you call 911 – Firefighters will come get you. You are NOT alone, and you have NOT been abandoned. I PROMISE. It’s like, our whole reason for doing the shit we do: to save lives and to break shit. Sometimes, we get lucky enough to do both at the same time.

High rise fires suck ass, and I always hated them. But the very FIRST thing I asked anytime we got one was if we had “any entrapments” – which is what we call anyone who could not self-evacuate for ANY reason. We ain’t leaving you behind. And yes, your friend who doesn’t have the stamina to carry you down can stay with you, too. Because I would never ask that of someone, honestly. 

Also, just a little FYI… MOST fire alarms are false alarms. Not to make anyone complacent or anything, but, yeah. Most of them are either system malfunctions, someone accidentally hit a pull station, or someone burned popcorn in a break room. So don’t let a fire alarm freak you out until you need it to – by smelling or seeing smoke or flames. 


This is GOOD TO KNOW. why do they not tell people this??


I use a cane. When I did a day-long fire safety training at my northeast American university (UMass Amherst), I asked that exact same question: “what am I supposed to do if the fire alarm goes off and I’m in my lab on the twelfth floor?” 

the fire marshal hemmed and hawed for a while and then said to take the elevator- you’re supposed to leave it free for the fire department to use and they want able-bodied people out fast not waiting for elevators. if the fire alarm has just gone off the building probably hasn’t suffered enough structural damage to make using the elevator dangerous, and modern elevator wells are heavily reinforced. many large and high-trafficked buildings on my campus have fire rated elevators that link in with the fire alarm system so they won’t let you off on a floor with a possible fire. 

if the elevator isn’t working, wait in the stairwell and call the fire department to let them know where you are. modern stairwells are also heavily reinforced- it might not be pleasant but modern building code usually requires fire-resistant stairwell doors in office and big residential buildings, also to help firefighters get in and out safely. older buildings’ stairwells may or may not be retrofitted with fire-resistant doors but a stairwell is generally the safest place to wait if you can’t get out. 

what happened to your friend was horrible, and i’m very glad you were there to help her out, but you can absolutely use the elevator to evacuate if it’s not shut down. those don’t-use-the-elevator rules are for abled people.  


“fun” little story:

last summer my friend who is an amazingly talented artist and i were in this super tall building, and she’s in a wheelchair and i’m pushing her around the room. it’s an art exhibit and some of her art was chosen to be showcased there and so it’s all fine and dandy until suddenly an alarm starts going off


everyone starts running for the stairs and my friend just looks at me with this forlorn look on her face

“i can’t go down the stairs”

but i’m a stubborn bitch “i’ll carry you”

“what about my chair? it’s too expensive for me to be able to get another one if i can’t get this one back”

“i’ll carry that too”

and i did. we went to the stairs (by then most people from our floor were gone) and i lifted her up in a fireman’s carry over my shoulder and then lifted her chair up and used the ridiculous amount of adrenaline that was coursing through my veins to make it down approximately 20 half-flights of stairs until we met some people exiting lower floors, one of which who kindly took the chair. I changed positions so i was holding my friend bridal-style which was, somehow, easier and the person who took her wheelchair (with her permission to handle it of course) accompanied me to the ground floor and then out the doors

basically there is no real protocol for people who can’t use the stairs in an emergency. it’s up to the people with them, if anyone, to help them or the person to somehow make it down the stairs alone, unassisted

thank fuck that it was just a faulty alarm system, because if i was unable to carry her down those stairs and the building was on fucking fire???? then i don’t know what would have happened to her, but i don’t think it would have been very good.

it’s fucking ridiculous and ableist to the absolute max.


That’s fucking horrific, thank you


in america at least, in this situation, there isnt one. either your loved ones or the firemen can get you out using the emergency fire escapes or stairs, or you die 


But what if you have a walker or a wheelchair??


You go down the stairwell/fire escape. Is that weird?


Wait what’s a buildings fire evacuation plan if you aren’t supposed to use the elevator to get down

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