Evacuation Concerns Exist for the Disabled in State Buildings

By: Brian Johnson Email
By: Brian Johnson Email

Imagine being left behind in an evacuation when everyone else exits the building. Some disabled people who work in Lansing have voiced concern they might be collateral damage if a real disaster were to happen.

Jeff Lodholtz is a state disability examiner. He works in the 3rd floor of the Hannah Building in Lansing. He is also the UAW 6,000 Chief Steward Health and Safety Officer. He is in charge of 50 employees that work on his floor, and says some have voiced concerns about emergency evacuation plans for the disabled.

"Oh, I think there's huge concerns," said Lodholtz. "Nobody's happy with the fact that... being stuck in a bathroom could be the last thing you see."

In an emergency none-disabled people use the stairs to get to safety, but if you're disabled you and a co-worker head to the bathroom.

"If they work on the third or fourth floor, that's where they stay. If they work on the second floor that's where they stay," said Lodholtz. "We are obviously not allowed to use the elevators, and then they just wait. And they are told that a firepersonel will come for them."

While many buildings downtown have similar procedures, the Hall of Justice is one exception. It has stair chairs to evacuate disabled persons. On Friday, the WILX cameras were not allowed inside to get pictures. Lodholtz described how they work.

"It's a chair with wheels. You sit somebody down. You strap them in with seat belts. It also has a retractable handle and a track system that allows you to lower someone down the stairs." 11

He has tried to get similar chairs for the disabled people in his building, but hasn't had success.

"I finally got an email. None of it says denied, they just, there's too many liabilities to continue the process of even asking."

WILX scheduled an interview with Charles Jones, the Director of Disability Determination Services. He later canceled and referred us to David Akerly, the Director of Marketing and Public Relations for the Department of Human Services. He also refused to do an on camera interview about the topic.

In an email, a spokes person for the state department in charge of buildings said it takes all emergency protocols seriously. "We use nationally recognized procedures for the safety of all state employees. Evacuation procedures and shelter in-place procedures are designed to ensure that staff members with functional needs can safely follow the state’s emergency procedures.”
But until something changes, for now the bathroom is all disabled people get, rather than being evacuated.

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