What is a personal emergency evacuation plan?

In an emergency, especially when it comes to a fire breaking out in a building, a safe evacuation of all residents/occupants should be the priority.

However, not every resident/occupant will be able to evacuate in a safe manner without the assistance of others, and for this reason, it is important to have a plan in place for this eventuality. This advice and guidance article covers personal emergency evacuation plans (PEEPs), what the purpose of them is, why they might be needed, what they should contain, and who is responsible for completing them.

What does PEEP stand for?

PEEP stands for personal emergency evacuation plan. It is a bespoke escape plan which is created to assist individuals who may require additional support during a general emergency evacuation of a building.

What is the purpose of a PEEP?

The purpose of a PEEP is to ensure that ALL people can evacuate the building safely and promptly in the event of an emergency, regardless of their level of mobility or other impairments.

There are two main types of PEEPs:

Permanent PEEPs

-    These are created for individuals who have a permanent disability or impairment that affects their ability to evacuate a building unaided.
-    Common examples of disabilities or impairments that may require a permanent PEEP include:
-    Mobility impairments e.g. unable to use stairs, slow or difficulty walking, distance limited, and may impede the escape of others.
-    Sight impairments e.g. identification of exit routes or obstructions, reading signage, particularly emergency action notices.
-    Dexterity or strength e.g. opening doors, particularly self-closers, operating door handles, snibs, panic bars, lift controls etc.
-    Hearing impairments e.g. awareness of alarm sounds, ability to hear verbal instructions/warnings.
-    Cognitive impairments e.g. awareness of alarm systems – bells, sirens, voice alarms, ability to act as directed, ability to interpret signs/instructions/warnings, unable to read, neurodiverse or mental health conditions.

Temporary PEEPs

-    These are created for individuals who have a temporary disability or impairment that affects their ability to evacuate the building unaided.
-    Common examples of temporary disabilities or impairments include:
      -    Short-term injuries such as a broken leg.
      -    Temporary medical conditions, such as a recent surgery or illness.
      -    Pregnancy, particularly in the later stages when mobility may be affected.

Temporary PEEPs (Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans) are designed to be reviewed and updated as the person’s condition improves or changes.

Why might a PEEP be needed?

As detailed above, a PEEP is needed in a situation where the relevant person requires additional support during an emergency evacuation, whether that be through permanent disabilities or impairments, or through temporary disabilities or impairments.

Employers also need to consider their responsibilities regarding the legal obligations of PEEPs, specifically the commitment to inclusivity and accessibility. There are two main pieces of legislation that you need to be aware of when it comes to PEEPs: 

The Equality Act 2010

-    The Equality Act 2010 in the UK prohibits discrimination based on protected characteristics, including disability, and requires employers to make reasonable adjustments to support employees who may have difficulty escaping in an emergency.
-    This includes providing PEEPs for safe evacuation during emergencies, tailored to individual needs.
-    Employers must proactively address employees’ needs, including the creation of PEEPs when necessary.

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005

-    The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 applies in England and Wales and places duties on employers to assess and manage fire risks in the workplace, including providing for the safe evacuation of employees in the event of a fire.
-    The Order does not specifically mention PEEPs, but it does require employers to make arrangements for the safe evacuation of people who may have difficulty escaping.

Under the Order, employers must carry out a fire risk assessment that takes into account the needs of employees who may have difficulty escaping in an emergency, and they must make reasonable adjustments to ensure their safe evacuation. This, therefore, may include the creation of PEEPs tailored to the specific needs of each individual employee who may have difficulty escaping.

What should a PEEP contain?

The contents of a PEEP will depend heavily on the needs of the individual and the building in which they use. The main details to consider when creating a PEEP include:

-    The individual, including things such as what their impairment is, whether they need a permanent or temporary plan, and how they can be helped.
-    How they will get to a place of safety, such as the building assembly point, and whether they understand where their escape routes (evacuation routes) are. Have all escape routes been cleared of potential hazards for when an impaired person leaves the building?
-    Will any devices/equipment/procedures be needed in order to help them in an emergency situation e.g. a wheelchair being made available near their room?
-    Does the person in question have the ability to evacuate by themselves, or will assistance be needed in an emergency situation where they cannot leave the building unaided?
-    Does the person agree with the plan, and have they been involved in the creation of the plan?
-    Has the plan been properly communicated to all involved with the plan, including those who will be assisting in the evacuation procedures?

Who is responsible for completing a PEEP?

It is the duty of the managing agent/responsible person/nominated representative to complete any PEEPs that may be needed.

As mentioned earlier, while the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 does not specifically mention PEEPs, it does require the responsible person for a building to carry out a fire risk assessment for the premises. This includes considering the needs of any persons who may have difficulty escaping in an emergency and, therefore, the creation of a PEEP.

Please be aware that considerable efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained within this article at the time of publication, however any legislative (or other) changes that come into effect after this may render the information out of date until it is reviewed and updated as part of the FPA’s content review cycle.