The LWF Blog

Fire Safety for Healthcare Premises – Structural Fire Protection Provision – Part 16

April 5, 2018 3:52 pm

In LWF’s blog series for healthcare professionals, we look to give advice and information on best practice of fire safety in hospitals and other healthcare premises. In part 15 we looked at the number of compartments and compartment size required on floors up to and over 12m above ground level. In part 16 we will discuss exits from compartments.


As was established in the last blog, it is essential that the occupants of a compartment where a fire starts can be evacuated to the next adjoining compartment. Each compartment is comprised of fire-resistant walls, ceilings and floors and provides safety from fire for the designated number of minutes. Exits from compartments should be by way of a circulation space to allow efficient egress to a stairway or final exit.


In cases where buildings include storeys up to 12 metres above ground level with a floor area of less than 1000m2, a minimum of two exits per floor are required. Where the floor area increases to more than 1000m2, a minimum of three exits per floor are required. On floors where a hospital street works as a third compartment, each of the first two compartments must exit onto hospital street, and be accessible from each other, with the two final exits or stairways being accessible from hospital street at each end.


Where the floors are more than 12 metres above ground, a minimum of three exits are required and when one compartment is a hospital street, each compartment must be accessible from the next and each compartment must have an exit onto hospital street, which must have two exits, one at each end, to stairways or final exit.


It is permissible to locate clinical and non-clinical departments next to each other, but the means of escape when passing through a non-clinical area must be designed to accommodate the number of patients and their associated beds and equipment.


While it is acceptable in terms of fire safety design to evacuate clinical occupancy through a non-clinical area, the opposite is not true unless the route through the clinical area is via a circulation route only.


Where ward bedrooms are included on the floor plan, direct escape from them to an adjacent ward bedroom in an adjacent compartment or sub-compartment is permissible, or safe egress is possible to an adjoining compartment or sub-compartment circulation space.


In situations where a storey is divided into three or more compartments, compartment exits must be sited so there are at least two alternative exits which provide horizontal escape to adjoining but separate compartments.


While the placement of alternative exits is not defined precisely, it is accepted that these should be located as far distant from each other as possible, preferably in opposite walls, to ensure that at least one exit will be usable in the event of a fire.


In part 17 of this series, LWF will look at escape routes over flat roofs. 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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