The LWF Blog

Fire Safety Engineering for Design – Means of Escape Design – Part 103

October 17, 2022 11:20 am

LWF’s Fire Safety Engineering blog series is written for Architects, building designers and others in the construction industry to highlight and promote discussion on all topics around fire engineering. In part 102, LWF discussed protected lobbies for stairways in line with NFPA guidance, before beginning to consider the safe escape of disabled people from buildings. In part 103, we continue to look at means of escape provision for people with disabilities and the use of refuges.

Any provided refuge in a building should be used in accordance with a pre-prepared escape plan and fire marshals should be nominated and trained to assist disabled people on the escape route stairways.

Where a building has a sprinkler system installed, the inclusion of refuges is usually considered unnecessary in NFPA codes as a sprinkler protected level of a building is considered safe refuge while the pre-prepared escape plan is put into operation.

Where refuges are provided and used, they must be wheelchair accessible and provide an area of at least 900 mm x 1400 mm where the wheelchair user can await assistance in evacuating.

To ensure the escape plan is effective and any persons using the refuge are aware of what is happening and able to communicate, two-way communications should be provided. This enables them to indicate their need for assistance and for those assisting to be able to provide updates on progress.

In some circumstances, the use of lifts may be employed to assist with the evacuation of disabled people. Any evacuation utilising lifts must be carried out under management or fire service control in accordance with clearly defined procedures.

Please note, it is not permitted to simply leave the evacuation of any person, disabled or not, until the Fire Service arrives on the scene. The evacuation plan should be carried out prior to Fire Service arrival wherever possible and rescue by the Fire Service should be a last resort in unforeseen circumstances.

The needs of disabled people vary widely and not all are wheelchair users. Although particular provisions should be made for wheelchair users, there are other groups of people who have a need for assistance or for fire protection measure to be provided in order that they may effect a prompt escape from a building on fire.

In part 104 of LWF’s series on fire engineering, we will look at the needs of mobility-impaired people, blind and partially-sighted people, hearing impaired and deaf people and those people with learning and/or cognitive disabilities. 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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