Evaccess: Emergency Evacuations – A Focus on Pioneering Safe and Accessible Theme Park Adventures – 2 Examples.
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Having a personal emergency evacuation plan for high-rise residents, particularly the disabled, becomes a matter of paramount importance when considering the potential risks associated with emergencies. Especially as the architecture of modern cities frequently features towering high-rises, gleaming facades that represent urbanisation and progress. However, the rising skyline brings with it the pressing question: how do we ensure the safety of every individual living in these skyscrapers?
The tragic fire at Grenfell Tower in June 2017 serves as a grim testament to the importance of comprehensive evacuation plans. With 72 lives lost and countless others affected, this catastrophe has left an indelible mark on the collective consciousness of the UK. Notably, 41% of the tower block’s disabled residents lost their lives that day, making it clear that a one-size-fits-all approach to evacuation is both inadequate and dangerous.
The post-Grenfell period ushered in an era of reflection and debate. By October 2019, the Grenfell Inquiry, led by experts and stakeholders, proposed the idea of “Peeps” (Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans). These bespoke plans would cater to the unique needs of residents with mobility, visual, hearing, or cognitive impairments. Instead of broad measures, the focus shifted to individualised, tailored evacuation strategies—a significant step towards inclusive safety planning.
Emerging as a pivotal player in the conversation around safe evacuation was the campaign group Claddag. Founded by disabled tower-block residents Sarah Rennie and Georgie Hulme, Claddag’s mission was unambiguous: make Peeps a legal requirement.
The goal was to ensure that the most vulnerable residents—those who might struggle during emergencies—had a clear, safe, and effective means of escape. The need for a personal emergency evacuation plan they believe is paramount.
However, the campaign group lost its High Court battle with the government over its decision not to implement evacuation plans for disabled high-rise residents as cited here on the BBC: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/disability-63839447.
However, a Home Office consultation found that implementing the recommendations from the Grenfell Tower Inquiry would be too costly and impractical.
As mentioned earlier, the chairman of the inquiry recommended that owners and managers of high-rise residential buildings prepare “Peeps” (personal emergency evacuation plans) for residents with mobility, visual, hearing, or cognitive impairments and The Home Office launched a consultation on whether to implement these proposals.
Claddag’s founders criticised the government for prioritising money over disabled people’s lives and leaving them without means of escape.
As we all know, transformative change rarely comes without challenges.
The Home Office consultation on the feasibility and implications of implementing Peeps, saw several concerns emerge. Chief among these were the potential financial burden and the logistical intricacies of implementing such plans across numerous buildings, and amidst growing debate, the government expressed its reluctance to enforce a legal obligation for Peeps.
This decision was influenced heavily by the perceived challenges of practicality and the associated costs.
The Home Office spokesperson stated that they are pleased with the High Court’s decision and are currently analysing responses to their public consultation on an alternative to Peeps called Emergency Evacuation Information Sharing Plus.
Essentially, the difference between this and PEEPS is that this would instead share the location of disabled residents with fire services. More information can be found one the government website here: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/emergency-evacuation-information-sharing.
Undeterred by these obstacles, Claddag sought legal recourse, moving the conversation from conference rooms to the courtroom. In December, they took the matter to a judicial review at the High Court. The proceedings were intense. The Home Office, during the course of the hearing, suggested that they were still in the consultation phase and had not reached a conclusive decision on the Peeps proposal.
Yet, Mrs Justice Stacey’s verdict painted a different picture. The ruling clarified that the government had, in fact, decided against endorsing the Peeps initiative. This decision was reached after a thorough evaluation of both fire safety implications and the potential financial strain of delivering such plans across the board.
The response to this judgment was mixed.
Claddag’s founders, echoing the sentiments of many, expressed deep dismay. Their joint statement poignantly highlighted a perceived prioritisation of fiscal concerns over the invaluable lives of disabled citizens.
While the debate around Peeps was undoubtedly polarising, the Home Office remained committed to seeking effective solutions, emphasising their dedication to ensuring the safety of residents, particularly those who might face difficulties during self-evacuation in emergencies. As highlighted earlier, in light of the concerns around Peeps, the Home Office turned its attention to the alternative “Emergency Evacuation Information Sharing Plus” proposal.
Currently, feedback on this alternative is being actively reviewed, with the government seeking to identify the most effective, practical, and cost-efficient way forward.
The narrative surrounding a personal emergency evacuation plan for the the safety of high-rise residents, particularly the disabled, is intricate and multifaceted. The Claddag vs. Home Office case serves as a microcosm of the broader challenges inherent in urban safety planning. As we reflect on this case and its implications, a few truths become evident.
First, the safety of every resident, irrespective of their physical abilities or health status, is non-negotiable. So to we believe is the need for a personal emergency evacuation plan for all residents in all building.
Second, while the goal is clear, the path to achieving comprehensive safety can be fraught with logistical, financial, and legal challenges.
Finally, the road to ensuring safety is an ongoing journey, requiring continuous dialogue, adaptation, and, most importantly, a commitment to inclusivity.
As we move forward, it becomes essential to engage with these challenges head-on, fostering a culture of collaboration and innovation. The aim should always be a future where every individual, regardless of which floor they reside on, feels safe, protected, and valued and the use of equipment such as the CD-7 shows how everyone can evacuate safely together: https://evaccess.uk/we-can-all-evacuate-together/
We believe in solutions that cater for every building’s unique needs.
Click here https://mobility.evaccess.co.uk/5-step-plan to start our easy 5-step plan for identifying mobility challenges in your building. Together, let’s forge a future where each individual, irrespective of their physical capabilities, moves with assurance within our architectural spaces, especially in times of crisis.