Environment of Care: Vertical Evacuation Concerns for Acutely Ill Patients and Others With Restricted Mobility

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This perspective paper was intended to raise awareness and the urgency of needing additional evacuation-related, hospital building design policies. We addressed the challenges to maintain the integrity of exits and inadequate hospital design considerations for individuals with restricted mobility. Hospitals are occupied by people who may have restricted mobility and visitors who are likely unfamiliar with their surroundings. A hospital fire threatens all people in the building, but especially patients in the intensive care unit who are frail and have limited mobility. Evacuating immobile patients is complex, involving horizontal and vertical evacuation approaches. Hospital design must consider the needs of individuals with restricted mobility, who are the most vulnerable in case of a hospital fire. Consequently, we urge that acutely ill patients and others with restricted mobility should occupy units located on the ground floor or Level 2. In addition, when configuring the physical environment of hospitals, providing step-free ground floor access (indoor or outdoor ramps) and evacuation aids for vertical evacuation is crucial. Step-free ground floor access between Level 2 and the ground floor should be wide enough to allow transporting patients on their beds. A standard revision to include these recommendations is desperately needed.

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