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Fire Safety for Facilities Management Personnel – Means of Escape – Part 131

January 10, 2022 12:30 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 130, LWF continued looking at Stage 3 of the three stages of escape, which is vertical travel down a stairway. In part 131, we continue discussing Stage 3.

When considering the fire protection offered to an escape route stairway, it is important that the wall and ceiling linings have only negligible flammability, as fire should not be able to spread quickly over such surfaces.

Additionally, the stairway enclosure (including any open landings leading into the stairway) should contain no fire hazards or combustible materials. It is acceptable to have a small reception area of not more than 10 m2, open to the stairway, provided that the stairway in question is not the only method of escape from the upper part of the building.

It may be considered acceptable by some enforcing authorities to allow a vending machine, provided that the machine does not contain a heating element, as might be the case with hot drinks.

An external stairway for a building is usually permissible, but should be considered a protected route. As such, doors opening onto the stairway should be fire-resistant and self-closing. Windows in close proximity to the stairway should contain fire-resisting glass in frames that are fixed shut.

Spiral stairways have limited acceptability and then only for a limited number of persons. Vertical ladders are not generally speaking an acceptable form of escape unless they serve plant areas which are usually unoccupied and which are only visited occasionally by a small number of persons.

While upwards escape is not usually considered acceptable, other than from a basement level, it is possible to have a short travel distance to a roof exit in exceptional circumstances. This wouldn’t normally be acceptable for members of the public.

Where escape across a flat roof is intended and accepted, there are special requirements imposed such as defined routes guarded with barriers, roof constructed for purpose and no hazards, such as roof lights, ventilation outlets etc. through which fire could pass and cut off the escape route.

Self-rescue devices, such as lowering lines are not an acceptable means of escape provision under any circumstance.

The means of escape provided should be suitable for the occupancy and building.

In part 132 of this series, LWF will begin to look at the final exit from the premises. 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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