Disabled Man Abandoned During Public Health Fire Alarm Evacuation
A disabled man was abandoned on the second floor of a building when the fire alarm went off and the building was evacuated. Geoff Meeghan, who suffers from early-onset Parkinson’s, is unable to walk more than three meters without support. Meeghan was being assessed my medical staff at the center by the company Atos, which assesses fitness for work in the UK.
When the fire alarm went off, the staff and medical team evaluating Meeghan left the building. Meeghan was stranded in his wheelchair.
Disabled people arriving for assessments are reportedly asked whether or not they can evacuate the building without assistance in case of an emergency. No one asked Meeghan, however. Meeghan, 32, waited for his appointment with his sister — who acts as one of his caregivers — and his support worker Nick Ephgrave. A few moments after his assessment began, the fire alarm went off, and the doctor present told everyone they needed to evacuate.
“The doctor held the door open for us to come out but then ran down the stairs and left us there,” Meeghan told The Independent. “We weren’t allowed to use the lift and asked a security guard for help – he said he’d send some but no one came. Eventually another security guard came past and stayed with us, even though he had been told to evacuate.”
“Even though I can tackle stairs with help, it was a highly stressful situation and I felt like it was far too risky. I was worried that flames might come up the stairs and that I might fall or something. It wasn’t a drill. We could see the fire engine arriving outside. I feel like there was a general lack of respect for disabled people at Atos – they make you feel as though you’ve done something wrong by being disabled – like you’re being persecuted.”
This isn’t the first time that disabled persons have had issues with Atos, a company which provides physical assessments to declare people fit for work. In August, people protested outside the IT firm. Campaigners said that the company’s tests for people on disability allowances are “damaging and distressing” and have even led to suicide.
Atos, a sponsor of the Paralympic Games, maintains that it ensures that its service is “professional” and “compassionate.”