When to use powered vs. manual evacuation equipment

powered vs manual

When it comes to choosing the right evacuation equipment for your building, there are a variety of factors to consider. One of the most important things to keep in mind is that your end users are unique. Their individual needs must be considered and assessed when selecting the appropriate evacuation equipment. Mobility issues vary greatly, from temporary injuries to permanent disabilities.

In addition to considering the needs of your end users, it’s also important to remember that every building is different. Factors such as the layout of the building, the number of the floors, and the location of emergency exits can all impact the type of evacuation equipment that is needed. For example, a narrow staircase or a tight corner might require a different type of evacuation product than a wide, open staircase.

Choosing the correct evacuation equipment might feel like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be one. By working with a trusted provider and carefully considering the unique needs of your end users and characteristics of your building, you can simplify the decision-making process and feel confident in your choice.

When it comes to powered vs. manual equipment, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Instead, it’s important to evaluate the needs of your end users and choose the equipment that provides the safest and most efficient evacuation possible.

Benefits of powered evacuation equipment

Easy to use: Powered evacuation equipment can be simpler to use and less physically demanding than manual chairs. Powered equipment reduces manual handling and facilitates a smooth, safe journey up or down stairs.

Faster evacuations: Powered equipment will move more quickly down the stairs. This means you can complete the evacuation process much faster, especially in large buildings.

Increased safety: Powered evacuation equipment are all equipped with features such as brakes or speed control, which can help ensure a safer evacuation.
This allows the operator to easily control the descent or ascent without any manual handling implications of operating.

Not just for evacuations: Powered evacuation equipment is designed to ascend and descend stairs, which allows building users to gain access to parts of the building that may have not been available before. For example, many historic buildings are unable to install lifts and are therefore still not operating in an inclusive way. Powered equipment ensures buildings can meet this requirement, without large building renovations. Many of our own customers will purchase equipment for daily access for building users.

Better for those with unique needs: Some powered evacuation equipment can accommodate your end user’s wheelchair directly, so they don’t have to leave it behind in the building or be transferred into an alternative and generic wheelchair. This is especially useful if your end users cannot be transferred to a manual evacuation chair easily. It is better for those who use specialist equipment – for example, tilt-in-space wheelchairs – or those who require medical equipment like gas and air.

Drawbacks of powered evacuation equipment

Requires more space: Powered equipment may present some challenges if your building has narrow staircases or small turning areas.

More costly: While the additional features of powered evacuation equipment provide many benefits for your operators and end users, they also tend to be more expensive than their manual counterparts.

Maintenance: Powered equipment requires more general upkeep than manual evacuation chairs. Some powered equipment falls under LOLER (Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998) guidelines. This means that you must have your powered evacuation equipment serviced twice a year. Any faults or issues must be addressed promptly to avoid potential safety hazards. Before you purchase any evacuation product, make sure you are familiar with the guidelines it falls under, and the servicing schedule required.

Battery life: All powered evacuation equipment relies on batteries. It is important to have an internal maintenance schedule in place to ensure that these are being charged and checked on a regular basis. During a training session with Evacu8, we will guide you through the process of checking these and provide you with inspection plans to help you build a routine.

Benefits of manual evacuation chairs

No power source required: Manual evacuation chairs can be used anywhere, even in locations without an electrical supply. This makes them a more versatile option than powered evacuation equipment.

Lightweight: Manual evacuation chairs are easy to operate due to their lightweight framework. This aids with manual handling when operating and setting up for evacuations.

Cheaper: In comparison to powered equipment, manual chairs provide a cheaper alternative when purchasing safe products.

Easy to store: Manual equipment often folds away into a convenient, unobtrusive size that is easy to store in small spaces. Manual chairs can often be mounted to the wall near your staircase, so they are out of the way but easily accessible in an emergency.

Less maintenance required: Manual evacuation equipment falls under PUWER (Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998) and only requires annual maintenance. Also, you won’t have to deal with the extra steps that come with keeping powered equipment in perfect working order.

Drawbacks of manual evacuation chairs

More involved than powered: Manual evacuation chairs require the operator to support the equipment and passenger down the stairs. Whilst the track systems on all equipment is designed to provide a safe and smooth descent, the movement is more involved than if a powered evacuation product is used.

Descending: The majority of manual chairs are designed for descending stairs only. Some clients may require equipment to ascend, meaning that this type of product would not be suitable for their needs. Evacuation chairs should not be carried up stairs in an emergency due to the increased risk of manual handling on the operators involved.

Choosing your evacuation chair

First and foremost, it’s important to assess the specific needs of the individuals who will be using the chair, such as their mobility limitations, body weight, and any potential injuries. These type of factors should be included in the end users PEEP (Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan). A PEEP should be in place for all users who would require additional assistance in an emergency.

Other important factors include the layout of your building, the number of floors, the presence of stairs or other obstacles,
Many customers will benefit from having an onsite assessment of both their building and their end users to ensure the most suitable equipment is sourced.

It’s important to carefully evaluate all available options and consult with experts in the field to ensure that the chosen chair is safe, effective, and suitable for the intended use.


Anyone who operates an evacuation chair – powered or manual – must receive proper training. Evacuation training covers how to operate the chair safely, how to navigate staircases, and how to evacuate individuals with mobility impairments or injuries. It should also involve getting familiar with any PEEPs that have been prepared for your end users on site so that their plan can be actioned efficiently and as quickly as possible.

At Evacu8, we understand that proper training is crucial for ensuring that your evacuation equipment is used correctly in the event of an emergency. That’s why we offer a variety of training options to ensure that your staff are confident when using your equipment.

Additionally, we offer maintenance contracts to ensure that your equipment remains legally compliant with PUWER and LOLER regulations. With our fixed price contracts for up to three years, you can rest assured that your equipment will be in tip-top shape and ready to use if you need it.

From start to finish, Evacu8 is here to support you every step of the way. Contact our friendly team or browse our evacuation equipment here.