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An incident where a profoundly deaf University of Auckland student was left alone in a building on campus during a routine fire drill is calling into question the university’s emergency evacuation procedures.
Last Monday, Dean Buckley had been studying on campus when the alarm sounded and, unaware of the situation due to his disability, remained inside the building until a fire warden approached him and told him to get out.
Buckley took to the university’s official Facebook page to share his distress after the incident.
He told of the hurt he felt when learning he had been left behind, saying “I wouldn’t have expected [the people around him] to be aware of my profound deafness, but I just wish they could’ve at least alerted each other around them.”
He feared for what would have happened to him had the evacuation been due to a legitimate fire, and strongly urged the university to install strobe lights to act as indications of an emergency.
Buckley’s mother, Genevieve Treherne, echoed her son’s fears, saying he could have been seriously injured or dead had it been a real fire, “people die from smoke inhalation so if he didn’t know until it had got to that point, he’d have no chance in hell of getting out of there.”
Treherne criticised the lack of lights attached to the fire alarms to alter the hearing impaired, saying the university could have alerted him to the fire drill before hand.
“He shouldn’t have to surround himself with people to make sure that he’s safe.”
With regard to procedures Victoria has in place, Disability Services have worked with Campus Services to “develop evacuation procedures that include people with disabilities.” This includes “strobe lights in some key open spaces to alert people who cannot hear the fire alarm” and “evacuation chairs designed to assist with evacuating people who cannot descend stairs are located at key locations in the university.”