The LWF Blog

Fire Safety for Facilities Management Personnel – Means of Escape for Disabled People – Part 138

February 28, 2022 12:46 pm

Lawrence Webster Forrest (LWF) is a specialist fire engineering and fire risk management consultancy whose aim is to give information on best practice in fire safety for facilities management personnel through this blog series. In part 137, LWF discussed means of escape from the point of view of making provision for people with disabilities. In part 138, we will continue to discuss means of escape for people with disabilities by considering the use of refuges.

BS 5588-8 first raised the concept of refuges in a building to temporarily protect disabled persons in an evacuation situation. The 5588 series of standards is now withdrawn and is replaced by BS 9999.

A refuge is an enclosure of fire-resisting construction which is located off a safe route to a storey exit, evacuation lift or final exit. The purpose is to allow disabled persons to wait in a temporarily safe space for assistance during an evacuation. As the enclosure is built from fire-resisting construction, as well as the route to the space being similarly protected, it allows time for the mobility-restricted person to be safely evacuated in a fire situation.

In a newly-constructed building, refuges are normally required to satisfy the requirements of the building regulations.

The refuge is not intended to be a large space, nor a space where a person would spend a significant amount of time. The standards require that the refuge is sufficient to contain a person in a wheelchair and for the wheelchair-user to manoeuvre into the space without too much difficulty. The space is required to be at least 900 mm x 1400 mm.

Refuges may be as simple as an enclosure, compartment, protected lobby, protected corridor or space in the open air, such as balconies or flat roofs which are away from and protected from the source of fire and have suitable means of escape. The design of the refuge should be undertaken at the design stage of the building and the design should not obstruct the evacuation of other building occupants.

It is extremely important that the design of the refuge should not inhibit the evacuation of able-bodied building occupants. It would not be acceptable, for instance, to designate a passageway of insufficient width as the refuge when other building occupants must pass through in order to evacuate the building.

In part 139 of this series, LWF will continue to discuss means of escape for disabled people and wheelchair users. In the meantime, if you have any queries about your own facilities or wish to discuss this blog series, please contact LWF on freephone 0800 410 1130.


Lawrence Webster Forrest is a fire engineering consultancy based in Surrey with over 25 years’ experience, which provides a wide range of consultancy services to professionals involved in the design, development and construction and operation of buildings.

While care has been taken to ensure that information contained in LWF’s publications is true and correct at the time of publication, changes in circumstances after the time of publication may impact on the accuracy of this information.

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