This paper describes work undertaken to quantify the performance of trained hospital staff in evacuating people with reduced mobility. Data were collected from 32 trials in which a test subject was evacuated through 11 floors of Ghent University Hospital using four commonly used movement assistance devices: stretcher, carry chair, evacuation chair and rescue sheet. Presented in the paper are performance results for both male and female assist teams, including device preparation time, horizontal speeds, vertical speeds and overtaking potential in stairwells. These data form the basis of the device performance evaluation presented in this paper. A comparative methodology is derived to assess the efficiency of the devices and enable performance differences to be established. Finally, the data collected are used in a numerical simulation of the evacuation of a ward, located on the 11th floor of a hospital, containing 28 non-ambulant patients. The scenarios investigate the time required to evacuate the ward using each of the four assist devices, assuming only the day or night shift staff are available. Furthermore, the scenarios consider the performance of all-male and all-female handlers and also take into consideration the impact of fatigue on the handlers. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.