The LWF Blog

Fire Safety for Facilities Management Personnel – Means of Escape – Part 113

August 31, 2021 11:07 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 112, LWF began to discuss means of escape and its importance in a fire safe design. In part 113, we continue to discuss means of escape.

In our last blog, we established that the term ‘without outside assistance’ in relation to means of escape was no longer seen in fire safety codes, but that the principle still applies. In practice, the need for building occupants to be able to leave a building on fire and escape to a place of safety is paramount and the ‘place of safety’ is only open to interpretation in as much as it must be outside and away from the building.

Escape onto flat roofs from which there is no route to street level other than by ladder, or rescue by the Fire Service is not considered a place of safety, although in the distant past this may have been acceptable.

Windows as a point of egress are also not acceptable in a means of escape scenario, except where acceptable under Building Regulations as an alternative means of escape from certain rooms in single or two-storey dwellings and in small loft extensions to dwellings. In essence, it’s not always possible to design domestic premises with dedicated means of escape, but it would never be acceptable for an office building to require escape from a window.

Means of escape for persons with disabilities should not rely on rescue by the Fire Service. The primary means of escape for disabled persons may include an evacuation lift designed for purpose, provided that there is an alternative means of escape available using stairways.

The first principles of means of escape design include the principle that, in a fire situation, people should ideally be able to turn their back on a fire and walk away from it towards safety, wherever possible.  In very simple terms, where possible, a rectangular room should have two exits as a minimum, one at each end, each leading to a staircase that takes the building occupants to an outside exit.

Obviously, this is not always possible in a small room or in a building with only one stairway, or where the room is off a dead end corridor.

In part 114 of this series, LWF will continue to look at means of escape provision. 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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