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Student Disability Services

Emergency Procedures

Emergency Guidelines for Students with Disabilities

Butler University cannot make any guarantee or representation that its personnel will be able to assist an individual with a disability in the event an emergency evacuation occurs.

Students who are concerned about their ability to safely evacuate in an emergency should utilize every precautionary measure to help ensure their own safety. To this end, students should review the following guidelines and procedures prior to an actual emergency and should convey their evacuation concerns to their instructors and all other relevant university employees. Students must also be prepared to review their evacuation concerns with emergency personnel during an actual emergency situation should the need arise. Students need to familiarize themselves with campus buildings and exits, and should seat themselves near classroom doorways and exits whenever possible. The following guidelines should be followed:

  • Students should discuss evacuation issues early in the semester and are encouraged to set up a buddy system for evacuation from the classroom. For nighttime hours, a "three deep buddy system" is recommended which involves three individuals with whom the student is in personal relationship, in close proximity, and who are willing to check on them in an emergency. During an evacuation effort, students who are unable to exit a building on their own accord should remain in an area of refuge, most generally near a stairwell or elevator lobby. Emergency personnel will generally, as a matter of practice, check all exit corridors and stairwells for those who may need assistance. Students with cell phones should pre-program their phones with the BUPD emergency phone number, 940-9999, as this number should be used to report the need for evacuation assistance as well as the student's physical location on campus. Students should remain calm while waiting and should continue to loudly call for help until assistance arrives.
  • Students with physical disabilities are encouraged to consider installing a multi-layered telephone system in their residential room to enhance their ability to contact responders in an emergency situation (i.e., cell phone, land line phone, emergency pendant, etc.)
  • Individuals who CANNOT speak loudly or who have voice/speech impairments should carry a whistle or have other means of attracting the attention of others. Emergency whistles are available in Jordan Hall 136.
  • All individuals should be familiar with alarm signals.
  • NO ONE should re-enter an evacuated building until permitted to do so by emergency personnel.
  • Elevators should not be used in an evacuation unless instructed to do so by emergency personnel. Elevators could fail during a fire, earthquake, or flood.
  • If an individual suspects fire is behind a door, cover the hand to provide protection, and then test the door by touching it. If the door is hot, it should not be used as an exit; instead, an alternative exit should be located.

Evacuation Policy for Students with Disabilities

Butler University cannot make any guarantee or representation that its personnel will be able to assist an individual with a disability in the event an emergency evacuation occurs.

The evacuation of persons with disabilities is the responsibility of such individuals and the University has established this policy so that individuals with disabilities are informed regarding evacuation guidelines. Individuals with disabilities are advised to take every precautionary measure to help ensure their own safety in an emergency situation.

Whenever the fire alarms/strobes sound, all occupants of the building should evacuate the building and assemble at the appropriate assembly points. Students with disabilities are encouraged to evacuate the building with their class, group, or instructor and should remain with their group at the appropriate assembly point. In general, ELEVATORS SHOULD NOT BE USED for evacuations. (Note: Elevators may be safe to use during shelter-in-place instructions such as those used during tornado or severe thunderstorm warnings. See additional information below.)

During evacuations or fire drills, any student who is unable to exit the building on his/her own, may either asked to be manually carried out of the building (at his/her own risk) or may remain near the closest stairwell. Rescue personnel will generally, as a matter of practice, check stairwells for those who may be trapped in the building. To contact BUPD in an emergency, use 911 when using campus phones and 940-9999 when using a cell phone. Students are encouraged to pre-program their cell phones with emergency numbers for quick access in an emergency situation. Students may also use emergency whistles (available in JH136) to whistle loudly in order to alert rescue personnel as to their specific whereabouts in the building. [Student Disability Services will send appropriate evacuation information, generally each semester, to faculty/staff regarding students with disabilities who are enrolled in their courses, provided the student has signed a release to allow dissemination of such material.]


  • Consult with any individual who may have difficulty exiting the building. Determine if the individual has a buddy system in place. If it is apparent the individual will not be able to exit the building without assistance (i.e., a person in a wheelchair in a classroom on an upper floor of a building), ask the person how to best assist BEFORE making a rescue attempt. Also ask the person if any items should be removed from the building as well. For example, a wheelchair should always be removed with the individual as it will be required for the individual's immediate use upon exit from the building.
  • A wheelchair evacuation should be attempted ONLY by those who have had rescue training. Evacuation should not be attempted by a single individual unless necessary as a last resort.
  • Call 911 if the situation is life-threatening.
  • Do NOT use elevators unless authorized to do so by police or fire personnel. Elevators could fail during a fire, earthquake, or flood.

Power Outages

  1. If an outage occurs during the day and a student with a disability chooses to wait in the building while electricity is being restored, it may be helpful to move near a window where there is natural light and access to a working telephone. During regular building hours, building coordinators should be notified so they can advise emergency personnel.
  2. If a student with a disability would prefer to leave the building and an evacuation has been ordered, or if the outage occurs at night, call BUPD at 9396 from a campus telephone to request evacuation assistance.
  3. Some multi-button campus telephones may not operate in a power outage, but single-line telephones and pay telephones are likely to be operating. As soon as information is available, the campus notification line will have a recorded message stating when power is likely to be restored.


Another instruction, called "shelter-in-place," may be given during a severe weather emergency such as a tornado or thunderstorm warning. Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to shelter-in-place with their class, group, or instructor whenever this directive is issued. Shelter-in-place generally involves seeking shelter in the lower levels of the building. In case of severe weather, elevators are generally considered safe for use by a person with a disability. If it is impossible for a student with a disabilities to move to the lower levels of the building, the student should seek shelter in an interior room with no windows. Students should again use their cell phone or an emergency whistle (available in JH136) to call for rescue assistance as needed.

Implementation of Shelter-in-Place

Upon activation of the Marion County severe weather warning system, the Butler University Police Department will notify Unit Coordinators who will implement response plans:

  • Unit emergency response team members will assist with movement to designated shelter-in-place locations.
  • Communicate clearly and succinctly.
  • Give directions to the shelter-in-place locations.

Actual Shelter-in-Place Procedures

  1. Turn equipment off, if possible.
  2. Quickly shut down any hazardous operations or processes and render them safe.
  3. Notify others in the unit's area of the siren if they did not hear it.
  4. Take emergency supplies and staff rosters, if possible.
  5. Secure all cash registers and safes.
  6. Exit the room..
    1. Take jackets or other clothing needed for protection from the weather.
    2. Close windows and doors but do not lock doors as you leave.
    3. Leave room lights on.
  7. If you are away from your office or classroom when the siren sounds, you should move immediately to the shelter-in-place location and await further instructions.
  8. Assist individuals with disabilities as described in the Operational Unit Emergency Response Plan.
  9. Move through the building via the nearest safe exit route. Walk, do not run.
  10. Keep existing groups together.
  11. Account for faculty, staff, students, and any visitors and sign in at shelter-in-place point.
  12. Wait at shelter-in-place locations for directions.
  13. Do not leave until emergency staff gives the "all clear" signal. The Butler University Police Department Communications Center will notify the Building Emergency Coordinators when the severe weather warning has been lifted.

Building Lockdown

Emergency situations may arise where, for the safety of occupants, university facilities must be locked to prevent unauthorized entry. While the intent of a facility lockdown is for protection, at no time will emergency response team members physically or verbally prevent someone from exiting a facility of his or her own free will.

Implementation of a Buiilding Lockdown

Upon receiving notification for a facility lockdown, the Butler University Police Department will notify each Unit Coordinator who will implement response plans.

Actual Lockdown Procedures

  1. The building emergency coordinator will lock all entrance/exits of assigned facility.
  2. Unit emergency response team members will communicate the order for the facility lockdown to their individual units and communicate not to leave the facility.
  3. Unit emergency response team members will report to predetermined entrances/exits of the facility.
  4. Occupants of the facility should remain in individual offices and classrooms until the lockdown is lifted.
  5. The Butler University Police Department Communications Operator will advise the Building Emergency Coordinators when the facility lockdown has been lifted.

Direct Emergency Response by Disability
Blindness or Visual Impairment

  • Review the nature of the emergency with the student and inquire as to the best manner in which to assist. In most cases, students will appreciate your offering your elbow (this is the preferred method when acting as a "Sighted Guide"). Do NOT grasp a visually impaired person's arm.
  • As you are walking, offer verbal information about location, the route you are following, the presence of any obstacles (ie. stairs, overhanging objects, uneven pavement, curbs, narrow passageways). Use compass directions and estimated distances as much as possible.
  • Upon arrival at the designated Emergency Assembly Point, orient the student as to location on campus and offer further assistance as needed.
  • Some visually impaired individuals may have guide dogs who can become disoriented or injured during an emergency. Attempt to evaluate the dog's needs and offer assistance if possible.
  • White canes and other mobility aids should NOT be left behind.

Deafness or Hearing Loss

  • Students with impaired hearing may or may not be able to hear the audible emergency alarms, depending on the level of hearing loss. Additionally, many structures are not equipped with visual (flashing light) evacuation alarms. As such, a student with a hearing impairment may not perceive that an emergency exists. An alternative warning technique may be required. One such alternative involves gaining attention by turning the lights on and off and using hand gestures or a written note to describe the emergency and the evacuation route - i.e. "Fire - go out the rear door to parking lot."
  • Ongoing visual instructions may be needed along the evacuation route. It may be necessary to point in the direction of the exit or use an evacuation map in order to advise of the safest evacuation routes.
  • Be advised that students with hearing impairments sometimes have voice/speech impairments as well. As such, they may be carrying/using a whistle or have some other means of attracting the attention of others.

Mobility Impairments

  • Most students with mobility impairments will be able to safely exit a one story building without assistance. However, students on or above the second floor of a building will require varying levels of evacuation assistance.
  • If a student with a mobility impairment is unable to exit a building safely, an attempt should first be made to help direct the student into a safe area on that floor to await assistance from emergency personnel. A safe area might include the end of the building opposite the emergency hazard, an enclosed stairwell, or a classroom with a closed door. It may be necessary, if possible, to clear any existing debris from the student's path.
  • In general, students with mobility impairments should NOT be evacuated by untrained personnel. However, if a student is in immediate danger and cannot be moved to a safer area to wait for assistance, the situation may become urgent making it necessary to evacuate using a carrying option or an evacuation chair (check with building coordinator as to availability). Carrying options include using a two-person lock-arm position or using a sturdy chair, preferably a chair with arms. Every attempt should be made to properly secure the student in the chair. Using a seatbelt or belt can be useful, if available. Before making this type of rescue attempt, always ask the student as to the preferred method of assistance. This is essential because moving and lifting students with certain types of disabilities can result in serious injury to the student. Always consult the student as to preference with regards to:
  1. Actual method of removal from the wheelchair.
  2. Number of persons generally required for safe removal from the wheelchair.
  3. The advisability of lifting or moving extremities due to the potential for pain, spasticity or due to the presence of braces, catheter leg bags, etc.
  4. The need for a seat or cushion pad to be brought along after the student has been removed from the wheelchair.
  5. The advisability of being carried down stairs in a forward or backward position.
  6. The need for after care. For example, some individuals may require medical treatment after being removed from their wheelchairs.
  7. The wheelchair should be evacuated along with the student and should be made available to the student as soon as possible after evacuation. A wheelchair is essential to a wheelchair user's ongoing safety and mobility.
  • If the student prefers to be moved while in their wheelchair, attempts should be made to do so whenever possible.
  • Some students with mobility impairments may also be prone to respiratory complications and will be particularly at risk in an emergency involving smoke or fumes. This should be considered during evacuation and is information that should be shared with emergency personnel.
  • Police and fire personnel should be immediately notified of any students remaining in a building as well as their locations. Emergency personnel will evaluate whether the student is safe in that location or whether an evacuation is necessary.


Bumping on a Series of Steps

In situations where the wheelchair user must be carried up or down a flight of steps, it is necessary to have a minimum of two persons assisting. Four persons may be needed in the case of a heavy adult. The strongest person(s) should be placed at the back of the chair. If an assisting person has a medical condition that prohibits lifting, it is advisable to enlist the assistance of a different volunteer.


  1. The wheelchair should be gripped by the handles on the back of the chair. If two people are assisting, one person holds the hand grips; the other person assists in front. If there are four people, at least two people should assist in the back; each person gripping one of the handles. Hand placement for those people who are assisting in the front depends upon which parts of the wheelchair are removable. This will need to be determined at that time of evacuation. Be advised of the following: if the wheelchair arms are removable, do NOT grip them. This must be stressed because it is the first place an assisting person will be inclined to grip. If the leg rests are removable, do NOT grip them. The persons who are assisting in the front of the wheelchair should grip a part of the wheelchair that is non removable, such as the front seat frame or leg rest (if non removable).
  2. AVOID carrying the wheelchair up or downstairs. This can quickly cause back trouble for those who are trying to be of assistance. Instead, ROLL the wheelchair up or down the stairs. Allow the wheelchair to bear its own weight.
  3. Keep the wheelchair slightly tilted back to keep the wheelchair user secure; however, do not tilt too far; this may cause the person who is assisting behind the wheelchair to bend too far forward and could cause the person(s) to lose balance and pitch forward.
  4. In general, it is always best to keep the wheelchair user facing away from the stairs unless advised otherwise by the wheelchair user.

Wheelchair Nomenclature

  1. Armrests
  2. Wheel Locks
  3. Wheel and Hand rim
  4. Casters
  5. Seat/Back Upholstery
  6. Footplates

The following represents the varying weights, lengths, and widths of wheelchairs, both electric and manual, with a person in it. The American National Standards Institute states that doorway widths should be 32 inches.

Weight Length Width
200 Pounds 48 inches 25 inches
360 Pounds 50 inches 26 inches
375 Pounds 63 inches 63 inches

General Operational Guide
How To Open/Fold Wheelchairs:

TO OPEN CHAIR: Tilt chair to one side, push down on seat rails (fig 1).

TO FOLD CHAIR: Fold up the footplates, tilt chair to one side, lift upward on seat rail or on upholstery next to seat rail. For chairs with detachable or offset arms (fig.2), fold by lifting carrying straps.

Figure 3. When folding the wheelchair be sure the foot plates are all the way up against the leg frames.

Curbs and Single Steps:

There are generally two methods which can be used to assist a person in a wheelchair over a curb or single step. The wheelchair can be rolled down off the curb or the step, backwards or forwards. The method used depends upon the preference of the user, the environmental situation, the strength of the assisting person, and the confidence the wheelchair user has in the assistant. As in all activities, if the wheelchair user does not have sitting balance, a seat belt should be attached to the wheelchair and used.

  1. Just before reaching the edge of the curb or step turn the wheelchair around so that it is facing away from the edge.
  2. Holding tightly to the handles, back the wheelchair down off the curb. Let the rear wheels roll down over the edge. Additional support can be furnished by pressing a hip against the back of the chair as it comes off of the edge. (See figure 4.)
  3. To prevent the front wheels coming down with a jar that could throw the wheelchair user out of the chair, press a foot on the anti-tipping bar as the chair is backed away from the curb. Then gently lower the front wheels to the ground.
  4. Turn the wheelchair around, being careful not to clip the ankle of a passer-by and proceed on your way.

The least taxing method on the assisting person and usually the safest for the wheelchair user, is to turn the wheelchair around until it can be rolled off the step or curb backwards.

Figure 4. When the wheelchair is being rolled backwards off a curb, support it by lightly pressing against it.

  1. As the curb is approached, place one foot on the anti-tipping bar and tip the wheelchair back on the large wheels. This keeps the wheelchair user securely in the chair as the chair rolls off the edge. The assisting person should not be supporting the weight of the wheelchair user, but just keep the wheelchair balanced on the large wheels.
  2. Once the front wheels are up, remove the foot from the anti-tipping bar. Continue rolling the wheelchair off the edge with the front wheels up.
  3. After the large wheels are off the edge, allow the front wheels to drop down gently by pressing a foot on the anti-tipping bar as the wheels come down.

This method is effective if the assisting person is experienced in handling wheelchairs. It is most useful on crowded street corners and places where the wheelchair can not be turned around to go off an edge backwards. The wheelchair user should have on a safety belt or be holding to the chair to prevent being thrown forward out of the wheelchair.


Rolling on the Rear Wheels:

Can be used to roll the wheelchair over the following types of terrain: going over railroad tracks and grates embedded in the street or sidewalks; soft lawns, sand, snow, etc., even deep-pile carpets. These types of terrain tend to throw the front wheels aside or cause them to sink in, making the progress difficult if not impossible. Lifting the front wheels of the surface gives the assisting person more control over the wheelchair.

If the assisting person is not strong enough (although it actually takes little physical strength if the wheelchair is kept balanced) or doesn't feel confident, it is advisable to turn the wheelchair around and go backwards over rough terrain. This also puts the front wheels out of the way as they are following rather than guiding the wheelchair. Remember not to tilt the chair too far backwards.

Methods of Assistance

Two handed chair carry


Pack strap carry


Walking assist


Chair carry


Carry by extremities


Each bearer grasps one of his wrists and one of the other bearer's wrists, thus forming a packsaddle.