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Fire Safety for Facilities Management Personnel – Means of Escape for Disabled People – Part 140

March 14, 2022 12:35 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 139, LWF discussed means of escape from the point of view of making provision for people with disabilities and the use of refuges. In part 140, we will continue to discuss means of escape for people with disabilities and evacuation lifts.

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.

BS 9999 contains technical recommendations for evacuation lifts which may be used by people with disabilities in the event of a fire. Equally, a fire-fighting lift that is for use by the Fire Service may also be used, so long as it complies with the recommendations for use.

The recommendations for evacuation lifts include that they are enclosed in fire-resisting construction and are fitted with a recall to ground switch. In the main, these lifts should be subject to a secondary power source with separate (and separated) power cables, with only a few exceptions.

Not all the requirements for a firefighting lift will apply to an evacuation lift. A firefighting lift must be able to remain operational at an advanced stage of a fire and continue to operate despite the use of large amounts of water. An evacuation lift is designed to work at an earlier stage of a fire (in fact, at the earliest stage, just after the alarm is raised).

There isn’t a requirement that an evacuation lift is provided in all buildings and the provision of an evacuation lift does not remove the need to arrange physical assistance for people with disabilities so that they may be evacuated by the use of stairways. An evacuation lift might be assumed to work but it cannot be relied upon in case there is a fault or it cannot be used.

In practical terms, this means that even in buildings with an evacuation lift and/or firefighting lift, people with disabilities in a refuge awaiting assistance to evacuate must have access to a stairway.

In part 141 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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