The LWF Blog

Fire Engineering Design and Risk Assessment – Fire Safety Management – Part 31

June 1, 2020 12:46 pm

In LWFs Fire Engineering blog series for Architects and others involved in building design, we have been looking at those activities of a company which can be classed as fire safety management. In part 30, LWF discussed evacuation management and in part 31, we continue looking at evacuation management, touching on horizontal evacuation, fire alarm systems and members of the public.

Some buildings may require the use of horizontal evacuation, which may include the use of temporary refuges which are fire-resistant compartments designed to hold a designated number of persons for a period of time until either the fire is dealt with by the Fire Service or they are moved on to another area of safety away from the fire. Such refuges can be useful in particular for those persons who have disabilities or mobility issues, outside of a progressive horizontal evacuation plan.

Evacuation procedures designed to use a system of horizontal evacuation would not generally be intended to cope with an extreme event which requires full and simultaneous evacuation.

Evacuation procedures for a building must be designed to suit the premises and its occupancy, and equally, the fire alarm and public address/voice alarm systems must be appropriate for the evacuation plan and environment. A large or complex building will benefit from a fire alarm system capable of delivering spoken messages which give clear instructions in a timely fashion to help occupants move to an area of safety without delay. Such messages should not be coded staff messages, except if used in an environment where assisted evacuation is essential, such as a high-dependency healthcare environment.

The evacuation plan must also take into account the behaviour of members of the public when a fire alarm is sounded. The majority of people will attempt to leave the building via the route they used to enter, which may not be the most direct route or the one indicated in the evacuation plan. Equally, where children are in the building, parents or carers will attempt to find the children before evacuating. Staff must be trained to assist and direct in an environment where members of the public may be on site.

Consideration and care must be given when deciding the content of any messages given over the public address system in a fire emergency. Such messages should be clear, calm and authoritative and provide relevant information. They must also convey the correct amount of urgency required to motivate prompt evacuation.

In part 32, LWF will begin looking at efficient management of a fire emergency. In the meantime, if you have any questions about this blog, or wish to discuss your own project with one of our fire engineers, please contact us.

Lawrence Webster Forrest has been working with their clients for over 25 years to produce innovative and exciting building projects. If you would like further information on how LWF and fire strategies could assist you, please contact the LWF office on 0800 410 1130.

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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