It may not be law, but it's good practice to have emergency escape plans for disables people, says Arnold Fewell, managing director of AccessChamp
In the 14 years since I was disabled, I can count on one hand the number of times I have been asked to complete or sign a Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan (PEEP) when staying in a hotel, and this is despite spending well over 1,000 nights in hotels of all star ratings. So it came as a pleasant surprise to be sent a PEEP when I was visiting an office block for London and Partners recently. The firm has procedures to identify any disabled person visiting. The facilities manager completed what he could of the PEEP and sent it on for me to finish.
I contacted the Fire Protection Association for clarification. They told me: "Although it is not expressly stated in legislation that the responsible person must develop a PEEP for every disabled person, nor ask them to sign it, it does by implication require serious consideration to be given to the safety of all occupants and it may well be that such aspects, such as a PEEP, be deemed to be ‘reasonably required in the circumstances'. It will be down to the responsible person to make those decisions as part of the fire risk assessment process."
The Government does publish guides to assist practitioners to best apply the legislation, which are available free of charge from www.gov.uk and include a guide which considers means of escape for disabled people.
Hoteliers don't legally have to have a signed PEEP from every disabled guest, but it is best practice and so is recommended. It will also give peace of mind to the disabled guest as they will know what to do in an emergency.
In the Fire Safety Risk Assessment guidelines it is recommended that hotels have a sign at reception describing the means of escape for disabled people. Those with PEEPs in place should point out: "We operate a system of assisted escape for disabled visitors. Please tell our receptionist your requirements. We will provide you with a suitable escape plan."
In all the hotels I have visited, I have never seen this type of sign. The question is why?
There have been several hotel fires in the last year, so you can't assume fire will never affect you. It must make sense to follow good practice for the benefit of disabled guests and staff who, under pressure and without the right training, lack confidence.
Arnold Fewell has launched a new online training service on accessibility for hoteliers at www.accesschamp.co.uk