Impact on Learning

Des Moines Public Schools

Project Snapshot

PROJECT: Des Moines Public Schools
LOCATION: Des Moines, Iowa
COMPANY NAME: EVAC+CHAIR North America
WEBSITE: www.evac-chair.com

Being prepared for any emergency situation helps to create a great learning environment. Des Moines Public Schools made sure all of their facilities would reflect that reality by updating their EOP and adopting EVAC+CHAIR evacuation chairs.

THE CHALLENGE

The State of Iowa Department of Education requires that schools in the state need to be “adequately prepared for a variety of emergencies that threaten the young lives of Iowa students each day.” The Department of Education also stresses the importance of having an updated Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) in order to guarantee this preparedness. These plans need to account for every student, including those with limited mobility.

Many of the 70 buildings in the Des Moines Public School District had bulky evacuation chairs stored in classrooms and closets. These outdated chairs were not only difficult to set up, but also hard to maneuver up and down stairs. In reviewing their EOP, Des Moines Public School officials realized that finding a better way to evacuate students with limited mobility would greatly increase emergency readiness in their schools, and set out to find a solution.

THE SOLUTION

After researching the various types of evacuation equipment available and fielding bids, the school district went with EVAC+CHAIR. “The EVAC+CHAIRs were light and easy to use. We looked at cost, weight, ease of use, ease of storage, amount of storage space, etc.,” says Pamela Rosa, safety compliance specialist for Des Moines Public Schools. “They have also been really good at following up and seeing if we need anything.”

Rosa notes that before, if a school elevator was out of service, there was “no way to get students with physical limitations, down stairs,” in an emergency. With EVAC + CHAIR, there is now a plan in place for every student when it comes to evacuation. Rosa points out that “the special education teachers that have students who need an evacuation plan,” benefitted greatly when the chairs were purchased.

IMPACT ON LEARNING

Safety should be a priority at every school — it is what allows students to learn in a worry-free manner and teachers to teach without constantly thinking about what they will do in case of an emergency. Des Moines Public Schools have made sure a safe environment is a reality across all their schools, by updating their EOP and with help from EVAC+CHAIR. “Providing full building access is important in providing a normal environment for all students,” concludes Rosa. “It has been great having something the schools can utilize to get students down stairs…it’s also the right thing to do.”

Editor’s Review

Since 1990, public schools have been subject to Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires schools built after January 26, 1992, to comply with the federal ADA Accessibility Guidelines. The ADA guidelines have become the de facto “best design practices” for making public schools accessible to individuals with special needs or disabilities. Eighteen years after passage of the ADA, it is accepted that disabled and special needs students are housed in ADA-compliant locations and can be readily evacuated in an emergency. Des Moines Public Schools recognized the need to replace their outdated evacuation chairs with newer, more user-friendly devices, making their schools safer and better prepared.

This article originally appeared in the March 2017 issue of School Planning & Management.

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