Fire Investigators And Disability Advocates Stress Stronger Fire Escape Plans

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(Memphis) News Channel 3 went digging for answers about evacuation safety for the elderly and disabled after concerns were raised after a high rise fire at the Linden Camilla Towers.

Dozens of people with disabilities were forced to evacuate 11 floors during a fire.

Thankfully, no one was hurt.

Some people walked out safely, but many in wheelchairs took the elevators when an apartment in the Linden Camilla Towers caught fire Thursday morning.

“There can be some malfunctions that send elevators to the fire floor,” advised Lt. Wayne Cooke with the Memphis Fire Department.

Memphis Fire Fighters helped about 30 others out of the building who lived on upper floors and weren't able to make the trip. Because of the American Disabilities Act, anyone living with a disability has the right to live on any floor they want.

“Of course, assuming the responsibility that in case of an emergency, they are told to make the extra steps,” said Josue Rodriguez with the Memphis Center for Independent Living.

Rodriguez says in the event of an emergency, disabled residents are advised to go to the nearest stairwell and wait for firefighters. He personally feels safer living on lower floors but celebrates the rights of disabled people.

“Yes I’m concerned I have to wait, but it doesn't take away my right as a person to say I want to be able to be on an upper floor,” said Rodriguez.

Rodriguez says more apartment buildings need to include escape routes for the disabled. He suggests man-powered elevators that move between floors from the outside.

Lt. Cooke points out families too need to work out a game plan that includes talking to their neighbors about getting out of a dangerous situation quickly.

“Tell them how they can assist you out of the chair,” said Cooke.

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