An Iowa legislator is calling for a review of statehouse emergency proceedures after being stranded on the second floor of the capitol during a fire alarm. Representative Mark Kuhn, a Democrat from Charles City, is temporarily in a wheelchair because his legs were severely injured in a November accident. “When the alarm went off that told all legislators and members of the general public to evacuate the building I was in the back room talking to the Easter Seals Society and was told I couldn’t use the elevator to evacuate the building,” Kuhn says. “I was told I had to stay until they figured out what to do with me.”
Highway Patrol officers who guard the capitol were summoned. Kuhn was told he’d be placed on a gurney and lifted down the stairs, then an officer decided they’d first determine if it was an emergency. “I saw the firemen come in…and it was determined it was not an emergency but it brought about the question: what is the state capitol’s plan…for people with disabilities and how do we get them safely out of the building.”
Kuhn has called for an immediate review of the capitol’s evacuation plan. Kuhn also wants a review of all state buildings to judge if the state is complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Kuhn says an official in the Iowa Department of Human Rights tells him the last review of the accessilibity of state facilities was done in 2000. A follow-up audit was supposed to be done in 2005, but wasn’t because of scheduling problems. “I’m looking forward to seeing that that is completed so Iowans with disabilities can have access to all of our state buildings,” Kuhn says.
Kuhn has received all sorts of letters since his accident was first reported, and he says several people have told him something good will come of it. Kuhn says today, he sees what that good might be. “I’m merely the test case, but for people who want access to the building and access to their government, it’s a real issue,” Kuhn says. “Hopefully, we can bring about some changes that will make this capitol…more accessible.”