All about Emergency Cords

Emergency Cords

Sometimes tied up, sometimes trailing along the floor. Sometimes miles away from the toilet, sometimes not there at all.

What should actually be provided in an accessible toilet according to Document M which defines how a toilet can meet Building Regulations?

A unisex wheelchair accessible toilet in a building that is not a dwelling.

So Section 5.4 (h) says that there must be a cord (or equivalent, see below)  if built to the 2004 guide (or later). If the toilet was built before this then it does not have to have an emergency alarm system. It must be able to be reset if accidentally pulled/activated from a seated position. The alarm must sound different to a fire alarm and flash differently.

According to section 5.10 the alarm signal must easily be seen and heard by those responsible for assisting.

The system must comply with section 4.3 (e) which says the pull cord must be red, located close to the wall with two red bangles to hold.

The bangles should not reach the floor but be located 100 mm from the floor (the second 800-1000mm from the floor). Bangles must be 50mm diameter.

Ambulant Accessible Toilets

These do not have to have an emergency alarm system.

Other alarm types

It is pretty rare to see alarm systems that are not a red pull cord. However, the guidelines do state that any system that meets the basic criteria may be used.

Would you know this was the alarm?

These are known as strip switches, dado panic rails and tape switches. Some have LED lights on and some look just like a wire in a tube. They may be all around the walls near the floor or also at waist height. To activate them you need to push on the strip to set the alarm off. Some people may not be able to do this depending on their impairment and some are wheelchair bump proof to avoid accidental triggering.

Some people wouldn’t know what the strip does.

Costs of emergency cord kits

These generally retail for around £80-100 and must be located correctly inside the toilet to meet Doc M for sanitation provision.

Tied up cords

These can be left tied up by users, carers or cleaning staff. They should always be left to freely dangle and not tied nor tucked behind a rail. Businesses should ensure the safety of staff and visitors by have a system of checking that the cord is left in the correct position.

Reminder cards can be obtained from Euan’s Guide.


  1. Peter Matthew Foster says:

    This Information is outdated and doesn’t reflect Approved Document part M anymore. Could this please be updated to show where the source information now lies?

    1. L Watch says:

      Hello, can you tell me which part you have seen that isn’t correct please ? I’ve double checked and each clause is still the same in the current edition for England. Current links to Doc M can be found in the resources section of the website. Many thank.

  2. Karl Moukheiber says:

    i need to contact someone regarding this item. please if it is possible to communicate private email or phone

    1. L Watch says:

      Hello, for UK business information consultancy via e- Mail, on a one to one basis, please visit our members page on:

      If you are a disabled person or carer/assistant, requiring further information please contact us via Facebook Messenger, our private Facebook group Toilet Talk – or post your question here.

      Kind regards, Louise

      Please note we do not provide information on where to purchase specific products – please contact suppliers direct for fixture and fittings.

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