The LWF Blog

Fire Safety for Healthcare Premises – Escape from Plant Areas & Security – Part 29

July 5, 2018 11:24 am

In LWF’s blog series for healthcare professionals, the aim is to give information on best practice of fire safety in hospitals and other healthcare premises. In part 28 of this series, emergency and escape lighting and the associated precautions were discussed. In part 29, LWF will talk about means of escape from plant areas before moving on to look at maintaining security or segregation during an evacuation.


Plant areas may contain a variety of equipment and contents and therefore, the means of escape should be designed to reflect the particular fire hazard contained within. The potential for free movement should also be considered, especially in cases where the area has unusual features which may cause a problem for those evacuating, such as low headroom.


In order for the escape route to be considered suitable and safe, it should be clear of any obstruction and must have a clear height of at least 2 metres throughout.


In plant areas with two exits or more, the maximum travel distance from any point within the area to an exit should be a maximum of 25 metres, where an alternative exit is provided. Of the 25 metres, only 12 metres should be the maximum single direction of escape.


In some plant areas with only one exit, the maximum travel distance must be no longer than 12 metres.  In addition, where only one exit is available, an alternative means of escape must be provided in the form of a ceiling hatch and fixed ladder.


Some plant rooms may be very low risk as a fire hazard, such as those only containing air handling plant, and in this case, the travel distances can be extended to 25 metres and 35 metres respectively.



Security and Segregation


In some healthcare premises, it may be necessary to maintain security and/or segregation of patients during an evacuation. While most premises have secure doors which automatically release upon activation of the fire alarm, these may not be suitable in all circumstances.


In cases of automatic door release, it can be difficult for staff to maintain segregation of patients. Patients would be able to wander, perhaps not following the evacuation route or potentially, they may try to abscond, which could put themselves or others at risk.


In addition, a lack of supervision could mean that each person could not be accounted for at the assembly point outside the building, or in the place to which evacuation had occurred within the building.


In situations where security and segregation are required, areas must be purpose designed with fire procedures and levels of staffing to allow the operation of key-operated or other staff controlled means of escape from that area.


While such systems can involve a slight delay when compared to automatic door release, the smooth and controlled evacuation supervised by well-trained staff will compensate.


In part 30 of this series, LWF will discuss Internal Fire Spread. 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 Peter Gyere on 020 8668 8663.


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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