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Fire Safety for Facilities Management Personnel – Means of Escape for Disabled People – Part 144

April 19, 2022 11:49 am

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 143, LWF discussed means of escape for people with disabilities, particularly wheelchair users. In part 144, we will turn our attention to the safe evacuation of people who are blind or partially-sighted.

A person who is blind may be able to evacuate a familiar building with minimal or no assistance. However, a partially-sighted person may find the evacuation process more difficult to navigate if their needs have not been taken into account. The design of building lighting and emergency lighting should take the needs of partially-sighted people into account. Lighting levels should be uniform.

Where a building is likely to contain a significant number of partially-sighted people, emergency lighting may be designed with higher lighting illuminance levels than those recommended in BS 5266-1.

It may also be advisable to use measures given in BS 9999 to make it easier for a partially-sighted person to navigate stairways. Colour contrasting may used to highlight stair edges (nosings) and handrails.

Such safeguarding measures may also assist people who are not partially-sighted, if visibility is affected by smoke, for instance.

While blind and partially-sighted people may have learned to navigate a building successfully on a normal day-to-day basis, a fire situation and subsequent evacuation may prove problematic. The most obvious way in which issues may be experienced is that an alternative exit from the building may need to be used.

For this reason, it is especially important that blind and partially-sighted people are made aware of alternative exits from a building they will occupy on a regular basis. Fire drills should include the use of any alternative exit and assistance should be provided.

For some buildings and occupancies, it may be suitable to use directional sounders to assist blind and partially-sighted people with finding their way in a fire situation.

The siting of fire assembly points should consider the needs of people with disabilities. They must not be placed at risk by an inability to move far enough away from the building. Any persons tasked with assisting a disabled person should ensure they accompany them to the fire assembly point and not merely to the outside exit of the building.

In part 145 of this series, LWF will discuss the necessary evacuation arrangements for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. 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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