The LWF Blog

Fire Safety for Healthcare Premises – Progressive Horizontal Evacuation – Part 3

January 4, 2018 2:55 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 2 looked at the fire evacuation strategy and how this can be implemented in a healthcare environment. Part 3 offers an overview of Progressive horizontal evacuation.


Progressive horizontal evacuation is the principle and process of moving patients and staff from the area of fire origin, which is compromised from a fire safety point of view, through a fire-resistant barrier, to a safe area on the same level. In the short-term, this will protect the occupancy from the effects of fire.


The area of safety is known as a refuge and will offer protection for a minimum of 30 minutes. In many cases of fire, this time is sufficient for the Fire Service to attend and the fire to be extinguished.


In cases where the 30 minutes may not suffice, onwards assisted evacuation by staff will be undertaken in order to move patients to a further adjoining area away from the fire or to a lower floor of the building. If each refuge move offers a further 30 minutes of protection, this provides adequate time for non-ambulant and partially-ambulant patients to be evacuated vertically to a place of safety, if necessary.


The time available for evacuation can be maximised with the use of active fire protection systems. Automatic-fire detection systems, smoke and fire detectors and/or fire suppression systems such as sprinklers may be incorporated into the building’s fire protection provision in order to provide prompt notification if a fire is detected and to slow the growth of the fire.


Areas which are accessible by patients should be designed to allow for progressive horizontal evacuation, unless those areas are for use only by patients who would be included in the independent category.


All movement in a progressive horizontal evacuation should be away from the fire and down towards ground level and the final exit from the premises. Patient-access areas must not, therefore, be located where evacuation would require travel up a stairway to a final exit.


In Part 4 of this series, LWF will look at hospital streets for those healthcare premises which are large enough to include them, before moving on to discuss the practice of vertical escape – the movement of staff and patients from the original storey to a lower one. 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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