No one left behind 

No one left behind 

Evac+Chair South Africa (SA) manufactures evacuation chairs to help people with mobility impairments to evacuate safely downstairs in an emergency. Over the years, the Evac+Chair has evolved through improvements in design and materials, becoming an essential tool in ensuring the safety of people with disabilities during evacuations.

“Evac+Chair has been trusted, proven, and relied upon worldwide to assist in saving people’s lives during emergencies for 40 years now,” says Gavin Glass, CEO of Evac+Chair SA. “We have been manufacturing the Evac+Chair range of products since 2004, under licence from Evac+Chair International based in the United Kingdom.” 

The Evac+Chair was first manufactured in the United States in 1983, driven by the need of its inventor – David Engen – to get his wife, who suffered from polio, out of her place of work in an emergency situation. “She had previously been left in the building during fire drills and this led to the development of the Evac+Chair,” explains Glass. 

“The introduction of the Evac+Chair has significantly impacted emergency planning and evacuation procedures, particularly for individuals with mobility impairments,” he adds. “Before its existence, evacuating people with disabilities during emergencies was often challenging and time-consuming, relying on manual assistance from the first responders or specialised equipment like stretchers. The Evac+Chair streamlined this process by providing a compact, portable, and easy-to-use device for evacuating individuals downstairs quickly and safely.”

Evac+Chair SA doesn’t only offer this evacuation aid, but also training on its range of products, which are aimed at educating building staff and emergency responders on the proper use of evacuation chairs. “Evac+Chair also provides products such as storage cabinets, wall brackets, and covers – designed specifically for our evacuation chairs – to enhance convenience and accessibility,” Glass points out.

“Additionally, maintenance and inspection services are offered to ensure the reliability of the products, and potentially consulting services to assist organisations in developing comprehensive emergency evacuation plans that incorporate the use of evacuation chairs for individuals with mobility challenges,” he continues.

“The recent fires in Johannesburg and similar incidents worldwide serve as stark reminders that safety preparedness is not an option but an imperative. They remind us that investing in safety equipment like Evac+Chair is no longer a choice but a necessity, and that emergencies can happen at any time. When they do, a well-prepared response can mean the difference between life and tragedy,” Glass emphasises. 

He adds that lessons learnt from these incidents further affirm several key points:

Regular training: Proper training in the use of safety equipment like Evac+Chair is crucial. Everyone in the building, from employees to security personnel, should be familiar with evacuation procedures.

Communication: Effective communication during emergencies is essential. Businesses and facilities should have clear communication channels and systems in place to relay instructions and updates to occupants.

Accessibility: Ensuring accessibility for everyone, including those with mobility impairments, is a legal and moral responsibility. Evac+Chair and similar equipment facilitate this accessibility.

Regular drills: Conducting regular evacuation drills can make a significant difference in emergency response. These drills help identify gaps in preparedness and allow for continuous improvement.

“The future of emergency planning and evacuation is promising. Technology will play an important role, with the integration of advanced sensors and artificial intelligence. Predictive analytics will become more accurate, allowing for better anticipation of emergencies. Most importantly, there will be a continued focus on inclusivity, ensuring that emergency plans address the needs of all, especially those with disabilities,” Glass predicts “Mobile apps and communication platforms will become even more crucial for disseminating information and coordinating responses. Overall, the future will improve technologically, and be inclusive of emergency planning and evacuation, enhancing safety and resilience in the face of crises.”

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