The LWF Blog

Fire Safety for Facilities Management Personnel – Means of Escape for Disabled People – Part 139

March 7, 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 138, LWF discussed means of escape from the point of view of making provision for people with disabilities and the use of refuges. In part 139, we will continue to discuss means of escape for people with disabilities and the use of refuges.

The disabilities experienced by people vary widely and, as such, some people with disabilities will not need assistance with evacuation from a building or place of work. Equally, some may require assistance to evacuate. While accepting the wide range of conditions and circumstances that may constitute disability in a person, the current discussion relates to wheelchair users and those with significant mobility issues. The use of refuges is not intended for all persons who consider themselves to have a disability.

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 The 5588 series of standards is now withdrawn and is replaced by BS 9999.

It is recommended in BS 9999 that a refuge is provided for each protected stairway on each storey and for any final exits leading onto a flight of stairs, with only a few exceptions. It is not required to have a refuge on a storey which only contains plant rooms and they are not required in a building of single occupancy which comprises only a basement, ground and first floor (with a floor area per storey of 280 m2 or less).

In England and Wales, Approved Document B does not give the building of single occupancy as an exception and only states that refuges may be omitted on plant floors.

While a period of 30 minutes fire resistance is recommended for the construction of refuges, more prolonged periods of fire protection are not considered necessary. This is because the refuge is only a temporary safe space in which a wheelchair user may shelter while an evacuation from the building to a place of safety outside is put into action.

In part 140 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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