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Fire Safety for Healthcare Premises – External Escape Routes – Part 25

June 6, 2018 11:49 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 24 of this series, the fire safety requirements for final exits was outlined and in part 25, we look at external escape routes.


While the escape routes from any point inside a building to the outside are extremely important, it is also important to look at the route to be taken outside the building to a place of safety where each person can be accounted for.


If it was necessary to completely evacuate a large building and the escape route simply stopped at the outside doors of the premises, it could impact on those people attempting to get out of the building by causing a bottleneck at the exit. In addition, achieving a safe distance from the premises is necessary in case, for example, the fire spreads to the outside of the building or an explosion occurs.


Whether the whole or a part of the building may need to be evacuated, adequate external assembly points should be available. These can take the form of a roadway, hard standing or a suitably designed area of landscaping.


The design of an external escape route must take the following points into consideration:


 The location/s must be suitable for all the building occupants to gather and for ambulances to gain access to in order to treat any persons necessary. This location and the ambulance access to the site must not obstruct the path of any other emergency vehicles, particularly those belonging to the Fire Service.


 Artificial lighting must be provided at the outdoor assembly point/s.


 Paved footpaths and dropped kerbs must be provided throughout the route to the assembly points to ensure that patients in beds and in wheelchairs can be moved quickly and easily.


 The gradients of external escape routes must be considered and excessive gradients mitigated in order to ensure access can be gained to the assembly area.


 External escape routes should avoid being too close to the external walls of the building for the safety reasons mentioned above.


 The potential for segregation of patients to be necessary, as per the emergency evacuation strategy.


In part 26 of this series, LWF will look at managing evacuation in those departments which provide intensive care to patients. In the meantime, if you have any queries about fire safety in healthcare premises or wish to discuss this blog series, please contact Peter Gyere in the first instance on 0208 668 8663.


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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