Accessibility in an Emergency

Personal Action Plan

The Personal Action Plan is a tool for individuals with access or functional needs to prepare for emergencies and have quick access to safety information. Individuals may choose to self-disclose and share their plan with friends, instructors, supervisors, or housing staff to enable them to provide assistance during an emergency. Individuals are encouraged to review emergency plans for applicable buildings before completing their Personal Action Plan.

Download the Personal Action Plan Template: Microsoft Word or Fillable PDF

Alert System: The university recommends that all faculty, students and employees, including people with disabilities and other conditions, register with the KU text message alert system to receive KU Alert text messages. Please note that fire alarms are not part of this text messaging system.

For more information about accessibility or accommodations at KU contact the ADA Resource Center at, 785-864-4946, or visit the Accessible KU website.

Assisting Someone with a Disability

If someone you work with or live with has a disability, they may need your help evacuating during a life safety emergency. Knowing in advance how to help and practicing during routine drills will give you the confidence to best assist during an actual emergency.

Review the Evacuation Assistance Guide below so you will be prepared to offer help to your friend, family member, co-worker, or anyone else who needs assistance during an emergency.

Evacuation Assistance Guide

  • Always ASK someone with a disability or other conditions how you can help BEFORE giving assistance. Ask how best to assist the individual and whether there are any special considerations or items needed.
  • The individual with the disability is the expert on his or her disability, so ask that individual for advice before assisting that person.
  • Take extra time when communicating with people who are deaf, hard of hearing or have a speech disability.
  • If you are asked to be an evacuation assistant, discuss roles and expectations with the individual who has asked you to assist him or her, including requesting a copy of his/her Personal Action Plan and discussing appropriate exit strategies, so that you are prepared in the event of an emergency.
  • Call 911 for life/safety emergencies or the Public Safety Office (PSO) at 785-864-5900 if it is not an emergency.
  • Notify First Responders that you are assisting a person with a disability.
  • Identify the building and floor where you are located, and how you plan to evacuate.
  • Provide a description of your situation, as appropriate.
  • Evacuate yourself and the person you are assisting.
  • Identify existing options and select the nearest appropriate exit, including, potentially, an Area of Refuge if you are assisting a person using a wheelchair or with other mobility restrictions.
  • Do not use the elevator unless it is a designated an EMERGENCY EXIT elevator or if emergency personnel have directed you to do so.
  • It may be necessary to help clear the exit route of obstructions or debris (if possible) so that the person with a disability can move out or to a safer area.
  • Evaluate Conditions – Exit the premises, if possible, or find a safe location to shelter in place.
  • If a person with a mobility disability cannot exit, assist the individual to a safer area, including an office or classroom and close the door. EXIT STAIRWELLS can be used effectively; they are fire protected and have direct access for emergency responders. If you can, go for help!
  • If conditions suggest that exit paths may be blocked, evaluate locations to shelter in place against worsening conditions and go for help.
  • If you and/or a person with disability are unable to exit the building, identify the location of the sheltering person to responders so they can execute a rescue.
  • If you are in immediate danger and cannot move to a safer area, CALL 911 and wait for assistance.
  • Police or fire personnel will decide whether people are safe where they are, and will evacuate them as necessary.
  • Never separate a person with a disability from his or her assistive aids, including wheelchairs, canes, hearing aids, medications, special diet food, urinary supplies, etc.
  • A person with a disability’s equipment may not be working after a disaster occurs, or it may be insufficient for emergency circumstances.
  • A service animal, usually a dog, is an assistive aid used by people who are blind, deaf, have a mobility disability, and other kinds of disabilities. A disaster may temporarily confuse service animals and they may not be able to help their owners as effectively as before the disaster.
  • Some individuals with emotional and developmental disabilities may be too unsettled to respond appropriately to instructions and directions, such as a public address announcement, to evacuate a building. Some individuals with these disabilities may need to be in a quiet place for a while to regain their composure; others may even try to hide from rescue workers.
  • Some individuals with significant mental or learning disabilities might not understand the significance of "Keep Out" signs and barricade tape.
  • Consider your options and the risks of injuring yourself and others in an evacuation attempt. Do not make an emergency situation worse. Evacuation is difficult and uncomfortable for both the rescuers and people being assisted. Some people have conditions that can be aggravated or triggered if they are moved incorrectly. Remember that environmental conditions (e.g., smoke, debris, loss of electricity) will complicate evacuation efforts. Emergency personnel have extensive training in evacuation procedures and the proper equipment for any kind of carrying or transfer.

People with Blindness or Visual Impairments

  • Give verbal instructions to advise the individual about the safest route or direction using compass directions, estimated distances and directional terms.
  • DO NOT grasp the arm of a person who has a visual disability. Ask if he or she would like to hold onto your elbow as you exit, especially if there is debris or a crowd.
  • Give other verbal instructions or information (i.e., elevators cannot be used), as appropriate to the circumstances.

People with Deafness or Hearing Loss

  • Get the attention of a person who is deaf or hard of hearing by turning on and off a light or, if necessary, touch and eye contact. Clearly state the problem. Gestures and pointing are helpful, but be prepared to write a brief statement if the person does not appear to understand the information you are communicating.
  • Offer written or visual instructions to advise the individual of the safest route or direction by pointing toward exits or evacuation maps.

People with physical disabilities

  • Do not attempt to evacuate a person in a wheelchair down a stairwell, wait for trained emergency response personnel.
  • Assist the person to a safe location and seek help.

Emergency Evacuation for People with Disabilities or other Conditions

University procedures require all people, including those with disabilities or other conditions, to evacuate a facility when the fire alarm is activated or when otherwise instructed to do so. Depending on the facility and the type of disability at issue, a person with a disability or other conditions may have the following evacuation options.

  • Horizontal Evacuation
  • Vertical (Emergency Exit Elevator) Evacuation
  • Staying in Place

Evacuation Options

Moving away from the area of imminent danger to a safe distance (i.e., another wing, adjoining building, opposite end of corridor, outside to ground level).

Stairway Evacuation

Stairways can be used by those who are able to evacuate with or without assistance. For example, people with visual disabilities may require applicable assistance. People who must use crutches or other devices such as walking aids will need to use their own discretion, when determining to use stairways, especially where several flights of stairs are concerned.

Emergency Exit Elevator Evacuation

Elevators designated as “Emergency Exit Elevators” are approved for use by the University Fire Marshal and can be used by people with disabilities or other conditions needing assistance to evacuate. Personal action plans should include a list of Emergency Exit Elevators within the buildings in the plan.

A sign adjacent to each landing at any of the Emergency Exit Elevators identifies the availability of the elevator. In the event an “Emergency Exit Elevator” is shut down because it is affected by fire, use alternate routes designated in your emergency plan, including staying in your office or room and contacting 9-1-1.

DO NOT use an elevator unless it is a designated EMERGENCY EXIT ELEVATOR!

Some buildings on campus have been designed with an Area of Refuge or Rescue Assistance Area(s), which include communication devices to a monitored location. Refer to the Building’s Emergency Floor Plans located at each exit to determine whether the building has a designated area and, if so, the location(s).

The following buildings have Area of Refuge or Rescue Assistance Area(s):

  • Murphy Hall — Southeast stairwell near elevator (floors 3-5) and northeast corner on 5th floor.
  • Strong Hall — All three enclosed stairs (southeast, southwest, and center near elevator).
  • Memorial Stadium — Press box floors 6-9 in the north and south stairwells; 5th level near north and south elevators.
  • Allen Fieldhouse — Near south elevator.
  • Malott Hall — Northwest, northeast, and southeast stairwells.
  • Budig Hall — Elevator landings on levels 2 and 3, northeast and northwest stairwells on level 2, and bottom level of basement stairwells.
  • Joseph R. Pearson (JRP) Hall — Center stairwell on levels 3-7.

These areas are identified to rescue personnel as likely areas for individuals to locate in the event they are unable to evacuate a building. People needing evacuation assistance should familiarize themselves with these locations. Additional information about the locations of these areas may be obtained by contacting the facility’s Building Emergency Liaison or Facilities Planning and Development.

Individuals with disabilities or other conditions that do not allow them to evacuate with others should include in their personal action plan their specific “Stay in Place” location (i.e., office, resident hall room, classrooms). It is the responsibility of every member of the university community to immediately notify emergency personnel of the location of individuals who are unable to evacuate.

  • Remain in a room with an exterior window and a telephone.
  • Close the door, if possible.
  • CALL 9-1-1, if this hasn’t been done already. The dispatcher will assist by notifying on-scene emergency personnel of the location of the person who needs evacuation assistance.
  • If a phone is not available, signal from the window by waving a cloth or other visible object.

Help from other Jayhawks

You are part of the KU community, and your friends, classmates, instructors, co-workers and others can provide help and support during an emergency. Talk with them about how they can best assist you during an emergency.