Emergency Preparedness Guide for People with Disabilities

Emergencies, fires, accidents and injuries can occur at any time and without warning. Being prepared and knowledgeable about York University’s emergency procedures is critical before, during and after an emergency situation.

The purpose of this guide is to assist persons with disabilities and community members in becoming familiar with this information. Please read this guide thoroughly before an emergency. It could perhaps save your life or the lives of others.

It is recommended that you self identify with the Physical, Sensory and Medical Disability Services Office, your professors or class instructors. We encourage you to discuss your needs for evacuation assistance with your disability counsellor.

If you require assistance in planning your evacuation prior to an emergency, please contact the Physical, Sensory and Medical Disability Services Office or the Office of Emergency Preparedness. In circumstances where an individual has not self identified but has a visible apparent need, community members may ask the individual directly if they require assistance in an emergency.

Persons with Disability

  • Consider arranging in advance a designated person to assist you during an emergency evacuation.
  • If you see someone wearing a fluorescent orange or yellow vest and hat, they are Emergency Response Wardens. Follow their instructions out of the building and to the designated assembly point.
  • Have a personal alarm that emits a loud noise to draw attention to your whereabouts.
  • Carry your fully charged cell phone with you at all times.
  • If you are working alone, make sure someone is aware and able to reach you either by phone or in person.

Community Members

  • Always ensure that any action you take does not put your life or the lives of others in danger.
  • University community members should not carry persons with physical disabilities downstairs. This should only be done as a last resort in situations where the person’s life is in immediate danger.
  • Notify 911 immediately if a person is left in a safe area and requires evacuation assistance.


Mobility limitations may make it difficult for a person to use stairs, move quickly or traverse long distances. Mobility devices include: wheelchair, scooter, walker, crutches or a cane.

Firefighters and Emergency Responders are trained to assist persons with mobility issues to evacuate buildings.

Once you have evacuated the building, immediately inform the Emergency Response Warden, Building Emergency Captain, York Security or other emergency official on scene of any person requiring assistance who remains in the building.

Emergency Survival Kit – Additional Items

  • Tire Patch Kit
  • Can of Tire Sealant (to repair flat tire)
  • Spare inner tubes
  • Pair of heavy work gloves (to protect hands from sharp debris or glass)
  • Spare deep-cycle battery

Person with Disability

  • During an emergency evacuation or fire alarm; if you require assistance, ask other individuals around you  for help.
  • Inform them of your needs and how they can best offer assistance to you

Community Members

  • If a person in a wheelchair asks for your assistance you may, if it is safe for you to do so, assist them to relocate to a place of safety.
  • A place of safety is an area away from smoke or fire. This maybe  a stairwell, elevator lobby, a classroom or office with a door that can close to separate you from the smoke or fire.
  • Allow the person to identify how best to assist them.
  • Do not push or pull a persons' wheelchair without their permission.
  • Avoid attempts to lift, support or assist moving someone unless they are in imminent danger.
  • Do not carry persons with physical disabilities downstairs, except as a last resort if they are in imminent danger.


Vision loss can include a broad range of conditions ranging from partial to complete blindness. A person’s ability to read signs or move through their surroundings during an emergency may be challenged.

Emergency Survival Kit – Additional Items

  • Extra White Cane
  • Talking or Braille Clock
  • Large print timepiece w/extra batteries
  • Extra vision aids
  • Extra pair of prescription glasses
  • Assistive/reading devices

Persons with Disability

  • Familiarize yourself with emergency exits and evacuation routes on each floor of any building in which you work, live or study.
  • During an emergency evacuation or fire alarm; ask for assistance if you require it.
  • If someone is escorting you out, tell the person to advise you of any obstacles and to give you verbal instructions.
  • Ask them to inform you when you have reached a safe place. Ask them to orient you to your surroundings. Advise if you require further assistance.
  • If you feel unsafe, ask someone to stay with you.

Community Members

  • Ask if you can be of assistance.
  • To communicate with a deaf blind person try tracing letters with your finger on the palm of their hand.
  • Tell the person the nature of the emergency and offer to guide him/her.
  • Offer your arm, walk at their pace, keep a half step ahead of them.
  • As you walk, give verbal instructions; advise the person of where you are, of any obstacles, upcoming stairs or changes in direction.
  • Describe locating positions such as “to your right/left, straight ahead/behind you”.
  • When you have reached a safe place, orient the individual to where they are – ask if they require further assistance.
  • Do not leave the person alone.


A person with hearing loss can be deaf, hard of hearing or late-deafened. In an emergency, the method in which emergency messages are issued becomes critical.

Emergency Survival Kit – Additional Items

  • Note pad, pen and/or pencil
  • Whistle or noisemaker
  • Assistive devices (e.g. hearing aids, cochlear implants or fm system)
  • Waterproof container for assistive devices and batteries

Persons with Disability

  • Communicate your hearing loss through spoken language, sign language or using gestures. (e.g. point to your ear while shaking your head)
  • Keep a laminated card on your person that identifies you as a person with hearing loss, and indicate how best to communicate with you.
  • Watch for emergency messaging and/or instructions on the LCD screens.
  • Locations of the LCD screens can be found at www.yorku.ca/epp.

Community Members

  • Get the person's attention by using a visual cue (e.g. turning the lights on and off) or by gently tapping their arm.
  • Face the person and make eye contact as they may be reading your lips.
  • Communicate in close proximity, speaking clearly and naturally.
  • Use body language and gestures to help relay your message; indicate what is happening and what they should do.
  • Write a note stating the emergency and actions to be taken. (e.g. “FIRE – go out the side door, NOW!”)


Non-visible disabilities can include communication, cognitive, sensory, mental health, learning or intellectual disabilities in which a persons' ability to respond in an emergency is restricted.

Emergency Survival Kit – Additional Items

  • Supply of food items appropriate to your disability/dietary.
  • Personal list and minimum 3 day supply of all needed medications, medical supplies and/or special equipment.

Persons with Disability

  • During an emergency evacuation or fire alarm; if you require assistance ask other individuals around you for help.
  • Prepare an easy to understand list of things you need to do during an emergency.
  • Keep an emergency contact list on your person.

Community Members

  • Allow the person to describe what help they need from you.
  • Ask the individual what assistance they require of you. Say “My name is _____, and I’m here to help you.”
  • Find an effective means of communication. (e.g. provide drawn or written instructions)
  • State there is an emergency and that they need to leave the building.
  • Be patient, flexible and maintain eye contact when speaking to the person.
  • Breakdown information and directions into small simple steps.
  • Repeat yourself (if needed).
  • Offer to escort the individual out of the building and to the designated assembly point.


Being prepared for an emergency includes having a Personal Emergency Survival Kit. A Personal Emergency Survival Kit contains basic items you may need to remain comfortable in the event an emergency situation occurs while on campus.

The “kit” should be put together in an easy to carry storage container or bag and kept in an easy-to-reach location.

Always wear comfortable clothing and footwear while on campus. You should also consider other essential personal items you may require during an emergency. Additional items might include: personal affects special medications and/or assistive devices.

Emergency Kit Checklists:

Common items for all kits:

  • Extra Cash
  • Granola or energy food bars
  • Bottled water
  • Light source (flashlight)
  • Cellular phone
  • Personal hygiene items
  • Essential medication(s)
  • Emergency contact numbers

Personal Emergency Kit

  • Portable radio
  • Whistle (to attract attention)
  • Portable hand sanitizer
  • Band aids
  • Identification documents
  • Important contact numbers

Residence Emergency Kit

  • Battery-powered lantern
  • Battery-powered radio
  • Blankets and/or sleeping bag
  • Extra toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Books, magazines or playing cards
  • Canned or freeze-dried food
  • Manual can opener
  • Extra clothing and footwear
  • Non-perishable food (ready-to- eat items that do not require refrigeration)
  • Toilet paper and other
  • Personal items

Workplace Emergency Kit

  • Battery-powered lantern
  • Battery-powered radio
  • Emergency blanket
  • Books, magazines or playing cards
  • Extra clothing and foot ware
  • Small first-aid kit
  • Non-prescription medication