The following document outlines procedures for alerting, evacuating, or sheltering persons with disabilities located on the University of Chicago campus during an emergency. Every member of the University community has a responsibility to facilitate the safe evacuation and sheltering of persons with disabilities by adhering to the following guidelines.
The University recognizes that individuals with disabilities may require assistance with alerting, evacuating, and sheltering in the event of an emergency. The University therefore asks all individuals who may need assistance in an emergency to self-identify themselves to the University. Once an individual has self-identified, the University shall work with the individual to develop a personal emergency plan that includes specific evacuation procedures, sheltering procedures, and means of communication in the event of an emergency. The University is also committed to training its employees to identify and assist persons who may need assistance in an emergency.
Authority and Responsibility
Environmental Health and Safety is responsible for:
- Collecting information which has been electronically submitted via the Self-Identification Questionnaire for University of Chicago employees;
- Providing student information to the Campus and Student Life Director for Student Disability Services;
- Working with individuals who have submitted the confidential Self-Identification Questionnaire to develop a personal emergency plan that includes specific evacuation procedures, sheltering procedures, and means of communication in the event of an emergency;
- Providing training to rescue assistants and other personal emergency plan participants (e.g., University of Chicago Police Department, resident assistants);
- Placing a copy of all personal emergency plans in the Fire Department Information Center (FDIC) for each building the individual is reasonably expected to routinely occupy (e.g., classroom, dormitory, library); and
- Obtaining a list of individuals from Campus and Student Life of students who are currently enrolled and have a Personal Emergency Plan in place, twice a year (at the beginning of the academic year and six months later), to ensure file accuracy between Environmental Health and Safety and Campus and Student Life.
Campus and Student Life - Director for Student Disability Services is responsible for:
- Notifying the appropriate area Dean of Students when information has been forwarded from Environmental Health and Safety; and
- Notifying the Director of Undergraduate Student Housing, Associate Director of Real Estate Operations, or the Director of International House, as appropriate, if the student resides in University housing; and
- Provide Environmental Health and Safety a list of individuals who are currently enrolled and have a Personal Emergency Plan in place at the beginning of the academic year and six months later.
Self-Identification with the University
Twice a year (at the beginning of the academic year and six months later), the University shall ask all faculty, students, and staff if they will require assistance during an emergency. It should be noted that self-identification is voluntary. The purpose of the request is to gather information to assist in alerting, evacuating, or sheltering individuals in case of an emergency.
Individuals who believe that they may need assistance during an emergency shall complete the online confidential Self-Identification Questionnaire. Environmental Health and Safety and Campus and Student Life can also help individuals locate the Questionnaire and address questions that arise when completing the form.
All employees, including faculty, other academic personnel, and staff shall return the Self-Identification Questionnaire to:
Environmental Health and Safety
5235 South Harper Court, 921-02
Chicago, Illinois 60615
All students shall return the Self-Identification Questionnaire to:
Director for Student Disability Services
Campus and Student Life
5501 South Ellis Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60637
Once a student submits the online questionnaire, information is forwarded to the Director for Student Disability Services and the appropriate area Dean of Students. If the student resides in University housing, the Assistant Dean of Students shall also inform the Director of Undergraduate Student Housing, Associate Director of Real Estate Operations, or the Director of International House, as appropriate.
Any individual requiring assistance shall update their self-identification information:
- Annually, no later than January 31, of each calendar year; or
- Whenever circumstances warrant an update (e.g., changes in his or her condition that would require a change in assistance).
In addition to submitting a Self-Identification Questionnaire, any employee or student needing assistance may also voluntarily provide information to anyone within the University community about his or her need for assistance during an emergency. However, such notification is not intended to be a substitute for proper identification using the Self-Identification Questionnaire. Supervisors may also ask an employee who has self-identified as disabled if he or she will require assistance in the event of an emergency.
Personal Emergency Plans
Once an individual submits a Self-Identification Questionnaire, Environmental Health and Safety shall work with the individual, his or her supervisor, the respective Assistant Director of Undergraduate Student Housing (if applicable), and the relevant building manager to develop a personal emergency plan that includes specific evacuation procedures, sheltering procedures, and means of communication in the event of an emergency. This plan shall include:
- Identifying the safest area located on each floor within the building to which a person with disabilities can be moved or directed to await assistance from emergency response personnel; and
- Designating a means to inform emergency response personnel (e.g., police, fire) of the locations of any person(s) requiring assistance.
A copy of all personal emergency plans shall be located in the Fire Department Information Center (FDIC) for each building that the individual is expected to regularly occupy (e.g., classroom, dormitory, library).
The University shall ask the individual with disabilities to identify at least two rescue assistants capable of offering assistance in evacuation during an emergency. A rescue assistant shall be someone who is likely to be in a building during the same timeframe as the individual, but not necessarily in the same area. A rescue assistant can be a co-worker or student. It is recommended that in either case the rescue assistant be a friend. An employee’s department or the appropriate Dean of Students is available to assist individuals in identifying rescue assistants.
Environmental Health and Safety shall provide rescue assistants and other personal emergency plan participants (e.g., police, resident assistants) training on the following:
- Contents of this policy and procedure;
- Fire safety procedures;
- Process to assess surroundings in an emergency;
- Process to assist the individual with a disability without causing injury should the need to move him/her physically becomes necessary;
- Procedures to communicate with the individual; and
- Understanding what equipment needs to be evacuated with the person with a disability or where back-up supplies (e.g., wheelchairs, oxygen) can be obtained.
Communication and Alerting Procedures
Before an Emergency Occurs
The University requires all University faculty, students, and employees to register with cAlert, the University’s electronic emergency-notification system. This system enables University officials to reach members of the University community by rapidly transmitting short notifications by email to any outside email address, by text message to a cell phone, by fax, or by voice message to an off-campus telephone or cell phone. For faculty, students, and staff who have not yet done so, please visit the University of Chicago’s Emergency Management website as soon as possible to enter or update your contact information.
It is extremely important that individuals who require a non-auditory “alert” submit a Self-Identification Questionnaire and sign up for cAlert. Those individuals with hearing impairments residing in campus housing are also urged to self-identify for the purpose of securing visual alarms to alert the individual in the event of an emergency.
Any person with a disability who will need assistance during an emergency evacuation and might be in a building after regular work hours, or at times when others are not usually present, should also strongly consider notifying the University Police of their location including the building (e.g., floor, room, and time of arrival and departure).
During an Emergency
Individuals with communication disabilities may be unable to obtain necessary evacuation information from standard auditory fire alarms or public address systems. As a consequence, hearing and visually impaired individuals may need to be alerted and given further instruction in emergency situations by rescue assistants or others. Nearby rescue assistants, faculty, staff, or students should also offer assistance to visually impaired individuals who may need help negotiating unfamiliar routes during an emergency evacuation.
During an emergency, the Chicago Fire Department and University Police shall attempt to check all locations, including restrooms, to communicate the need to evacuate. If forced to stay in place during an emergency, the person with a disability should attempt to contact the University Police at extension 123 or 773.702.8181 to notify them of his or her location, in addition to asking others who are evacuating, to alert the University Police. The University Police shall then dispatch an officer to the location to assist with the evacuation. Please stay on the line with the dispatcher until the University Police arrive.
It is strongly recommended that persons with disabilities acquire additional alerting devices to draw attention to themselves during an emergency. Cell phones, pagers, and loud whistles are effective tools for drawing attention or for contacting emergency personnel.
Personal evacuation plans shall serve as the first-line of defense to ensure the safety of individuals with disabilities. The following provides further guidance for emergency procedures for persons with disabilities. However, this information is not meant to replace the proper planning and training included in a personal emergency plan.
University procedures require all persons, including those with disabilities, to evacuate a facility anytime the fire alarm system is activated or otherwise instructed to do so. Depending upon the facility and type of disability, a person with disabilities may have the following evacuation options:
- Horizontal evacuation (e.g., going from one building into a connected, adjacent building on the same level);
- Vertical evacuation (e.g., stairway);
- Proceeding to an Area of Rescue Assistance or Priority Rescue Area to await evacuation; or
- Staying in place to await evacuation (e.g., office, classroom).
Note: Elevators are never to be used in the event of a fire without explicit authorization by fire or police personnel. Further, stairway evacuations of individuals who use wheelchairs may be hazardous to disabled individuals, rescuers, and others attempting to evacuate and should not be attempted by untrained personnel. Individuals with mobility impairments who are able to walk independently or with assistance may be able to negotiate stairs. However, if danger is imminent, the individual should wait until heavy traffic has cleared before attempting the stairs.
Move to an Area of Rescue Assistance or Priority Rescue Area
Individuals with mobility impairments may not be able to exit a building without help from fire, police, or other emergency personnel. Persons who are unable to evacuate should await evacuation assistance in designated rescue locations such as an Area of Rescue Assistance or Priority Rescue Area.
Individuals who have self-identified shall be notified of any Areas of Rescue Assistance or Priority Rescue Areas in buildings they may occupy or frequent, and they should acquaint themselves with the locations of these areas in other campus buildings. A Master List of Areas of Rescue Assistance and Priority Rescue Areas shall be located in the Fire Department Information Center in the lobby of each building and on the website for Environmental Health and Safety. Environmental Health and Safety can also be consulted about the locations of Priority Rescue Areas in each building and shall update this information annually or as needed.
Stay in Place
In circumstances where evacuation is not possible and relocation to an Area of Rescue Assistance or Priority Rescue Area is not practical (e.g., pathway impeded), it is recommended that a person with a disability stay in place (e.g., office, dormitory room). It is the responsibility of every member of the University community to immediately communicate to the University Police and emergency personnel the location of individuals unable to evacuate. In addition, the person with disabilities should be reminded to telephone University Police immediately to further ensure that on-site emergency personnel will receive the information as soon as possible.
Further Guidance for Persons with Disabilities
The Role of the Chicago Fire Department and University Police
The Chicago Fire Department and the University Police are the first-responders to all campus emergencies, including those requiring evacuation. They shall enter a building during an emergency in order to facilitate the safe evacuation of all occupants. If possible, they will conduct a floor-by-floor search in order to locate those individuals who are unable to exit the building safely, including a search of all Areas of Rescue Assistance and Priority Rescue Areas. The University Police shall serve as the primary point of contact for responding University emergency personnel. All rescue assistants and individuals with disabilities shall contact University Police to report on the evacuation status and location of an individual with a disability to ensure this information is relayed to emergency personnel.
All University employees are required to attend Fire Safety and Evacuation training upon initial employment and annually thereafter. Students shall receive fire safety and evacuation information during orientation. Students living in University dormitory housing shall also participate in fire drills.
The University shall train University Police, rescue assistants, supervisors, and facility managers in identifying and assisting persons who may need assistance in an emergency and the location of designated safe areas.
Practice will instill confidence in one’s ability to cope in an emergency while ensuring that appropriate lifesaving actions will be taken during a real emergency. Practice consists of walk-through procedures, announced drills, or unannounced drills.
Fire Department Information Centers
Every building on campus is equipped with a Fire Department Information Center (FDIC). The FDIC contains an emergency pre-plan which provides details regarding the physical aspects of the building, impediments to evacuation, and floor plans. Environmental Health and Safety shall also place copies of all personal emergency plans (including names, room numbers, and contact information) for those persons in that building who have submitted a Self-Identification Questionnaire. As the information regarding persons with disabilities is updated or changes, Environmental Health and Safety shall update the FDIC.
The University is required by law to keep all medical information confidential. However, emergency, safety personnel, and other University representatives may be informed if an individual with a disability might require help with alerting, evacuating, or sheltering during an emergency. The information shared with such personnel shall be limited to information necessary to help alert, evacuate, or shelter the disabled individual during an emergency.
Contact Information and Emergency Numbers
Police, Fire, and Ambulance Assistance
- from any University phone: 123
- from any Non-University phone: 773.702.8181
Medical Center Public Safety
Albert Merritt Billings, WB050
5841 South Maryland Avenue
Environmental Health and Safety
5235 South Harper Court, 904-01
Chicago, Illinois 60615
Director for Student Disability Services
Campus and Student Life
5501 South Ellis Avenue
Assistant Dean of Students for Student Affairs
Office of the Vice-President and Dean of Students in the University
Levi Hall, 5801 South Ellis Avenue, Room 222
Reviewed: October 2022