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Training Focus: Evacuation Chair by Acorn Health & Safety

Since the implementation of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order in 2006, any person who has control of premises must take reasonable steps to ensure that anyone on the premises at the time of a fire can escape safely.

In recent years we’ve seen a significant increase in the purchase of evacuation chairs and supported a number of organisations including offices, schools, retail premises, community centre healthcare care environments with training members of staff in their use.

Our Evacuation Chair training course is aimed at any members of staff that may need to use this piece of equipment to assist with the evacuation or someone with impaired mobility in the event of a fire.


Where there are permanent members of staff or children on the premises, the responsible person must ensure that a personal emergency evacuation plan or PEEP has been completed, or in the case of general evacuation from buildings attracting large numbers of visitors a Building Emergency Evacuation Plan or BEEP.

Selecting the Right Chair: Search for evacuation chairs on the internet and you’ll come across a wide variety of different chairs of all shapes and sizes.  Having taught the use of a wide variety of evacuation chairs over the past few years it’s become clear that there’s certainly no such thing as a one size fits all approach, any organisation seeking to purchase an evacuation chair is advised to check fully to ensure it meets their needs.  I’ve penned a few considerations below:

Chair capacity – evacuation chairs have a safe working load, which should be exceeded.  Check to ensure chairs meet the needs of those who might use them

The environment – check carefully to ensure the chair is suitable for use in your environment, for example: the size of the chair, staircases, corridors, door widths, carpeting and external areas all need to be considered

Transferring into the chair – chair seating varies significantly, as does the height of the chair itself. Some chair have bucket seats, some have level seats, arms and booster cushions.  Where possible it’s important to select a chair that needs the needs of those who are likely to use it

The chair operator – having now taught several hundred staff to use evacuation chairs, the capability of those operating the chair is arguably the most important consideration.  Chairs come in all shapes, sizes and weights.  Most are straightforward to assemble, however, their handling on flat surfaces and when descending stairs can prove to be challenging for some staff members.  Handle positioning, grip, chair heights, clothing and footwear and the physical capability of those involved are all considerations when selecting a chair.

Training Staff: 

Ensure all staff members who might be required to use evacuation chairs are trained in their use.  Personally, I encourage those who may be required to use chairs to ‘experience’ being in a chair themselves, something that helps significantly when supporting others requiring assistance with evacuation.

Encourage staff to ‘practice’ with chairs on a regular basis to ensure that a high level of competence and confidence is maintained.

It’s also important (where appropriate to do so) to encourage those staff members and pupils to ‘have a go’ in the chair themselves in a calm, controlled environment, something that helps significantly when it comes to evacuation for real.

Whether to include the use of evacuation chairs in general fire drills has to be a decision at a local level, there are clearly benefits to doing this, however this risk involved in some cases (manual handling for example) might on occasions be greater than the benefit of participating in the drill itself, as can the risk of injury to chair users.

Our course programme employs a variety of teaching techniques to meet the needs of individual delegates and includes the following:

  • Introduction to evacuation chair training
  • The legislation that identifies the need for an evacuation chair
  • Circumstances when the use of an evacuation chair is appropriate
  • People handling techniques during chair use
  • Safe use of an evacuation chair
  • Consideration of the chair user once evacuated
  • Practical exercises involving a number of simple people handling techniques relevant to emergency evacuation chair use

Owing to the practical nature of this course a basic level of general fitness is required.  Delegates must be physically able to carry out the procedures detailed in the course outline.

This course is of 3 hours (half day) duration

Finally, a few general comments below: 

  • Places chairs in convenient and accessible locations, where practical try and site those who might use them near to chairs and exits
  • Identify the route those requiring assistance will take from the building
  • Consider having a buddy/allocated fire marshal to provide assistance to those requiring support with evacuation
  • Decide whether chair users are moving to evacuation chairs, or whether evacuation chairs are being brought to them
  • Determine at what point in an evacuation they should leave, often this is a few seconds behind others to allow for time to transfer into chairs and ensure unhindered access to stairs
  • Consider the need of those who’ve been evacuated once they’ve left the building.

Should you have any further questions, or require information, support or training in the use of evacuation chairs please do not hesitate to contact us or call 0117 958 2070