The LWF Blog

Fire Safety for Healthcare Premises – Hospital Streets & Vertical Escape – Part 4

January 11, 2018 2:25 pm

Fire Safety for Healthcare premises is a blog series by LWF, aiming to give guidance on healthcare-based standards and best practice in fire safety. Part 3 looked Progressive Horizontal Evacuation – the movement of patients from an area affected by fire to an adjacent fire protected area. Part 4 gives an overview of Hospital Streets, what they are designed to do and how they are used, before moving on to look at Vertical Escape.


A Hospital Street links together the hospital departments, stairways and lifts and is the route used by staff, patients and visitors to move about the premises between areas. While they are commonly seen in large healthcare premises, they are not a requirement in small hospitals and other healthcare premises.


In terms of fire safety, a Hospital Street is a protected compartment that connects with all the department entrances, final exits from the building and methods of moving between floors (lifts/stairways). As it is a separate fire-protected compartment from each area leading from it (such as a hospital department), if a fire develops in an area off the corridor, the occupants of that area can be safely evacuated via the Hospital Street to a safe adjacent area.


Hospital Street is also the place that the Fire Service would assemble and organise their fire-fighting activities as it is a safe area from which to operate.

While Part 3 of this series looked at Progressive Horizontal Evacuation, the movement of patients from an area affected by fire to an adjacent protected area, in severe fire situations, it may be necessary to begin moving staff and patients from that floor of the building to a floor closer to the final exit. This vertical movement of the evacuation process should only occur when the growth of a fire threatens the safety of occupants outside the compartment of fire origin, as there are additional risks to patients and staff during vertical escape.


In some buildings, accommodation stairs are designated separate from fire escape stairs, but in the case of a hospital, this is inappropriate. All stairways should be potential escape stairs, as they must all be able to be used in a fire emergency. The only exception to this is stairs which are wholly contained within an atrium and only serve the atrium.


While the use of lifts to achieve vertical evacuation can be most beneficial in order to safely evacuate dependent and high dependency patients, the subject will be further discussed later in this series, as lifts which can be used during a fire situation must be subject to certain building regulations.


In Part 5 of this series, we will look at the different classifications of patients according to Firecode. 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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