RESNA Introduces Position Paper on Evacuation Chairs

The Rehabilitation Engineering & Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA) has released a position paper on evacuation chairs, the devices used by people with disabilities when they need to evacuate buildings via stairways.

The free position paper is meant to complement RESNA ED – 1:2013 American National Standard for Evacuation Devices Volume 1: Emergency Stair Travel Devices Used by Individuals with Disabilities.

The topic of emergency evacuation is a critical one given the extensive number of high-rise buildings currently in use. Because using elevators is not recommended in many emergency situations, building occupants will usually need to use stairs to evacuate. RESNA’s new paper points out that evacuation chairs can be used not only by people with mobility-related disabilities, but also by people with medical conditions such as respiratory, cardiac or sensory limitations.

Stakeholders include not only the people needing to use evacuation chairs to leave a building, but also building owners and managers, employers, fire and life safety services personnel, educational systems, and the assistive technology service providers who may be consulted about appropriate equipment.

The paper discusses three types of evacuation chairs: carry types that require two to four people to operate; track types that can be operated by a single person; and sled types, which have the lowest costs, but require the user to be in a supine or seated position on the floor.

For instance, the paper points out that sled-type devices require the user to transfer onto the floor. Track-type devices usually feature the ability to control descent by the friction between the device’s rubber belt and track.

The paper makes recommendations on the type of devices that should be used, how many devices should be available per building, and how training and practice with the device should be carried out.

“We found that several of the stakeholders intended for the standard still had questions about appropriate use,” said Glenn Hedman, PE, CPE, ATP, RET, chair of the committee, in a news announcement about the paper. “The position paper is designed to help those stakeholders understand the use of these devices and how emergency evacuation of individuals with disabilities need to be included in every institution’s emergency planning.”

To download the position paper, click HERE.

About the Author

Laurie Watanabe is the editor of Mobility Management. She can be reached at

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