The LWF Blog

Fire Safety for Facilities Management Personnel – Means of Escape for Disabled People – Part 145

April 25, 2022 12:00 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 144, LWF began to discuss the safe evacuation of people who are blind or partially-sighted. In part 145, we consider the necessary evacuation arrangements for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

When a person has a hearing impairment, or classes themselves as deaf, it does not necessarily mean they can hear no sounds at all. It may be that some deaf and hard of hearing people can hear some types of conventional fire alarm sounders. However, this may not be the case and to ensure the safety of deaf and hard of hearing people, alternative physical measures and fire safety management procedures should be put into place.

The type of measures required will vary depending upon certain factors. The type of building and work environment may be of benefit, such as when employees work in groups on a factory floor, for example. The arrangements to ensure the safe evacuation of one deaf or hard of hearing employee may simply involve specific employees being tasked with alerting their colleague when the fire alarm sounds. While simple, this system is only effective when the selected employees are on the same shift patterns and everybody is aware of the arrangements. Practice fire drills should be undertaken to ensure the process works as intended.

It may be, however, that the deaf or hard of hearing person will sometimes work alone and in the same location in which case it is necessary to provide visual fire alarm signals in their area of work. Flashing beacons can be installed on existing fire alarm sounder circuits, which helps to ensure the circuits supplying the flashing beacons are protected against fire in the same way as the fire alarm circuit.

A solution for deaf or hard of hearing persons who need to move through the entire building unaccompanied may be a pager that vibrates and is linked to the fire alarm system. In this case, they are notified to evacuate as soon as the fire alarm triggers and are not dependent on being in a certain area or being found by a nominated colleague.

In part 146 of this series, LWF will look at the need to check means of escape. 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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