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Fire Safety for Facilities Management Personnel – Means of Escape – Part 112

August 24, 2021 9:17 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 111, LWF looked at furniture and furnishings and how the right choices can help prevent fire. In part 112, we begin to discuss means of escape and its importance in a fire safe design.

Means of Escape is simply the structural means provided as a safe route to travel from any point within a building to a place of safety. It is designed at the earliest stages of a building design and is the most fundamental part of the requirements for life safety in case of fire.

The means of escape provision will be structural in nature, utilising passive fire protection measures. Historically, reliance has not been placed on lifts, as they were not usually designed to be used in a fire scenario. There has however been a shift in thinking, with reliance placed on evacuation lifts in specific situations as they may be the best way to safely evacuate certain occupants. Means of escape should not include ladders, chutes or lowering lines. The means of escape route will not usually incorporate escape to a flat roof or other structure from which there is no escape other than by ladder.

A place of ultimate safety is commonly a gathering space in the open air beyond the building. It would not be considered adequate for the space to be an alleyway or small yard adjoining the building from which there is no escape, as this would still leave the occupants at risk from the fire, or from building collapse as a result of the fire.

The definition of an acceptably safe means of escape would sometimes include the words ‘without outside assistance’ and although that term is largely absent from more modern fire safety codes, the principle remains. Means of escape should be designed to fulfil the needs of the building occupants and allow safe egress from the building without requiring assistance from the Fire Service. Without this requirement, the safety of building occupants could rely on how far from the nearest fire station the building was, or whether or not there was a build-up of traffic, or indeed, if there was another major fire at the same time requiring appliances to attend.

In part 113 of this series, LWF will continue discussing 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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