The LWF Blog

Fire Safety for Healthcare Premises – Vertical Escape – Part 23

May 24, 2018 1:31 pm

In LWF’s blog series for healthcare professionals, we look to give information on best practice in fire safety for hospitals and other healthcare premises. In part 22 of this series, we looked at the issue of vertical escape in relation to stairways and ascertained that in effect, all stairways in a hospital must be considered escape stairways as they would be used for escape in case of fire. In part 23, we will continue looking at vertical escape, this time in relation to escape lifts before going back to stairway requirements.


Where patients with limited mobility, such as very high dependency or bariatric patients, are accommodated and treated on upper floors of a healthcare building, it is essential that at least two escape lifts are provided. These should be situated disparately from each other to ensure that if a fire occurred and one lift was inaccessible, the other will be reachable.


Even in cases where two or more escape lifts are provided, it is most unlikely that an entire evacuation of building occupants from upper floors could be achieved through the use of lifts. It is therefore essential that the correct amount and type of escape stairways are always provided.


The dimensions of an escape lift and the escape lift lobby should be sufficient for a patient in a bed along with two staff members, with appropriate space allowed for negotiating the bed around corners. Exact dimensions should be sought at the planning stage of the building.


Where non-escape lifts are also provided in large healthcare buildings, it may be possible for them to be used as part of the evacuation strategy. However, such lifts must always be within a separate fire protected compartment and be separated by distance from the area of the building where the fire is situated.


Various pieces of guidance are available which provide information on escape lifts and fire safety design:


BS 9999:2017 – Fire safety in the design, management and use of buildings. Code of practice.

Health Technical Memorandum 08-02 – ‘Lifts’

Health Technical Memorandum 05-03: Part E – ‘Escape lifts’ provide guidance on the necessary compliance of designs for escape lifts.


Any stairway that may be used to service areas providing sleeping accommodation or which may contain dependent or very high dependency patients must be designed to allow for the evacuation of patients on mattresses or other similar methods. In these cases, the stair width is not decided upon by the number of people expected to descend, as it would be in an office building for example, but by the requirements of mattress manoeuvrability.


In part 24 of this series, LWF will continue to discuss the requirements in relation to stairways in healthcare buildings. In the meantime, if you have any questions about this blog, or wish to discuss your own project with one of our fire engineers, please contact us.


Lawrence Webster Forrest has been working with their clients for over 25 years to produce innovative and exciting building projects. If you would like further information on how LWF and fire strategies could assist you, please contact Peter Gyere on 020 8668 8663.


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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