Although being able to provide a safe and quick route out of a building is a major part of fire safety law, it is sometimes difficult to create a universal set of guidelines that apply to all premises.
As part of the fire risk assessment
that’s required under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order, the ‘responsible person
’ in any organisation is in charge of ensuring that safe evacuation procedures are in place. This includes keeping designated exit points clear of hazards, arranging for regular fire drills and determining an assembly point away from the building.
So what are some of the less universal things that should be considered in the event of a fire at a high rise building?
High Rise Building Fire Safety
While the majority of guidance regarding evacuation procedures can apply to most premises, high rise buildings are a bit of an anomaly. The obvious difference is the time it takes to escape from the top of the building – especially as lifts and escalators are a
no-go in the event of a fire.
With office blocks, where the number of floors sometimes hits triple figures, this clearly presents an issue, as evacuation can sometimes mean large groups of people attempting to descend multiple flights of stairs at the same time. This not only presents problems in terms of speed of evacuation, it can also put those with mobility issues at an increased risk.
Back in 1993, when the first terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre occurred, tens of thousands of people inside the towers were forced to descend the vast number of steps to get down the 110 stories in order to escape.
This put a lot of strain on even the most physically able, and instigated a lot of discussion regarding how evacuation from high rise buildings should differ from that of others. Some reports were showing that evacuation could take over two hours in certain high rise buildings – completely unacceptable in the event of a fire.
Changes to high rise building fire safety
saw a number of specially designed features introduced, such as automatic sprinkler systems that can control the fire, keeping it contained to a localised area while those on the floors around it can escape. Those not on the same floor or on the floors directly above and below the fire can remain where they are until further direction is available, getting rid of the need to evacuate the entire building.
While fire safety guidelines don’t necessarily always apply to every building, there are some universal actions that represent unsafe practice during the evacuation of any fire.
Firstly, elevator usage, no matter how many flights of stairs need descending in order to
escape the building, is never safe. Many modern lifts are fitted with equipment that recalls them to a specific floor if the fire alarm is activated (usually the ground floor), and lift shafts are often vulnerable to smoke and dangerously high temperatures.
The roof is another no-go area
during a fire in a high rise building. Although it may often be closer than the ground, and we are used to seeing images on the news of people stood on the roofs of burning buildings being airlifted to safety by the emergency services, this is not a good idea. In this scenario, finding a room with an external facing window and sealing the door so as to ward off smoke. Do not attempt to jump from the window, but instead try to contact emergency services and give them your exact location.