CORVALLIS - Oregon State University has purchased a pair of evacuation devices that can help persons with restricted mobility to be escorted safely down stairs during earthquakes, fires or even during something as mundane as the breakdown of an elevator.

The purchases are part of the university's ongoing efforts to better serve persons with disabilities and to prepare for potential emergencies, said Prudence Miles, an associate in the Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity.

"During a demonstration, we saw a 120-pound woman easily escorting a 200-pound man down a series of stairs," said Miles, who chairs the university's advisory committee on persons with disabilities. "We see this as another piece of the puzzle in making the OSU campus prepared for emergencies and welcoming to persons with disabilities."

A similar device helped one wheelchair user escape from the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. He had been on the 69th floor when the terrorist attack began.

OSU will hold a demonstration of the new Garaventa Evacu-Trac devices on Tuesday, Dec. 2, at 11 a.m. in Cascade Hall. The public is welcome.

The devices, which cost $2,195 apiece, have steel reinforced tracks that can grip any stairs, and the speed of descent is controlled by hydraulics and a secondary brake system. It can safely transport a person weighing up to 300 pounds down many flights of stairs, Miles said.

"We've talked to several people who are in wheelchairs and they like the system," she said. "It also will be useful in helping other persons who are not in wheelchairs, but may have limited mobility, in the event of a general emergency or a broken elevator.

"During a medical emergency, we will still call 911 and rely on paramedics for treatment and transport," she said.

Miles said the devices will be available through OSU's Department of Public Safety. She is sharing information about the Evacu-Tracs with building managers and office staffs, and the university is updating its emergency evacuation plans to better serve persons with disabilities.

"To paraphrase the movie, 'Field of Dreams,' the more accessible our campus, the more people will come," Miles said.

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Prudence Miles, 541-737-0868