The LWF Blog

Fire Safety for Healthcare Premises – Vertical Escape – Part 22

May 17, 2018 1:38 pm

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 21 of this series, LWF looked at the necessary considerations of hospital streets and escape route widths. In part 22, we will look at vertical escape using stairways.


While it is possible for organisations to denote certain staircases as escape stairs (and therefore, certain staircases are not classed as escape stairs) this is not the case in the healthcare sector. It is accepted that in an emergency, any stairway available and nearby will be used and so all stairs, other than those which only serve an atrium, must be designed as escape stairways to allow vertical evacuation whenever necessary.


It is probable that the day to day functions of the premises will require an adequate number of stairways in the design, however, where this is in doubt, any building used for healthcare purposes must meet the following provisions:


Up to 100 patient beds in an upper storey – 2 Stairways


Over 100, up to 200 patient beds – 3 Stairways


Over 200, up to 300 patient beds – 4 Stairways


Over 300, up to 400 patient beds – 5 Stairways


Any healthcare building must have a minimum of two stairways and where the building has a hospital street, that is where the stairways should be sited. In those venues without hospital streets, each compartment of the building must have access to a stairway via a circulation space.


An alternative means of exit must be available from every compartment or sub-compartment. A very simple example is that if an individual approaches a door and there is smoke coming under it or a fire is obvious, there must be an alternative method of safe egress from the area.


While external stairways are theoretically allowed in healthcare buildings, they should not be provided for escape from patient-access areas. Where such a stairway exists in a building, it cannot be considered one of the alternative means of exit from a patient-access area.


Due to the nature of escape stairs, they should be sited remotely from each other to maximise their usefulness in a fire situation. If they were situated close to each other, there is a possibility that access to any could be impossible due to fire.


In part 23 of this series, LWF will look at vertical evacuation via escape lifts. 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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