The LWF Blog

Fire Safety Engineering for Design – Means of Escape Design – Part 105

October 31, 2022 12:34 pm

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 104, LWF discussed the needs of mobility-impaired people, blind and partially-sighted people, hearing-impaired and deaf people and those people who have learning and/or cognitive disabilities. In part 105, we look at evacuation lifts, in relation to means of escape design.

Historically, it has been a standard recommendation that lifts are not used as a part of the evacuation of personnel from buildings. The potential for power to the lift to be cut while people are inside, for smoke to find ingress into the lift and the possibility that the doors might automatically open on the floor of fire origin have all meant that the risk of using lifts outweighed the benefit.

More recently, however, with the proliferation of very high rise buildings, the use of lifts as a part of the evacuation plan for certain premises has become a necessity. They are also desirable for use in premises where the occupancy may have limited mobility or require evacuating in their beds such as in a healthcare environment.

The lifts suitable for use in evacuation scenarios are those enclosed in fire-resisting shafts with enclosed fire-resisting lift lobbies to avoid the possibility of smoke entering the lift. The lift itself should be designed in accordance with the relevant, current standard (BS 9999, Annex G being one of the most commonly used).

Standby power should be made available to each evacuation lift in case of the failure of the main power source. It is advisable to protect electrical equipment against the ingress of firefighting water.

The use of lifts for evacuation should be undertaken only under building management or fire service control and clear procedures should be produced for their use. The lifts themselves should only be operable under the control of designated persons, i.e. building management or fire service personnel using an override key.

Guidance to assist in the operation of evacuation lifts can be found in the following documents:

NFPA 101 (US)

BS 9999

HTM 05-03 Part E


Fixed emergency communication systems should be provided in the lift cars, lift lobbies and at each floor level of exit stairs. These should be fire/emergency telephones only.

In part 106 of LWF’s series on fire engineering we will discuss lift lobbies and refuge floors. 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 since 1986 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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