Advice Mobility impaired
Further guidance regarding escape routes
This section provides further guidance on the general principles that apply to escape routes and provides examples of typical escape route solutions for a range of common building layouts. The guidance is based on premises of normal risk so if your premises (or part of your premises) are higher (or lower) risk you should adapt the solution accordingly.
The type and age of construction are crucial factors to consider when assessing the adequacy of the existing escape routes. To ensure the safety of people it may be necessary to protect escape routes from the effects of fire.
In older premises it is possible that the type of construction and materials used may not perform to current fire standards. Also changes of occupier and refurbishment may have led to;
Cavities and voids being created, allowing the potential for a fire to spread unseen.
Doors and hardware worn by age and movement being less likely to limit the spread of smoke.
Damage or lack of cavity barriers in modular construction.
Breaches in fire compartment walls, floors and ceilings created by the installation of new services, e.g. computer cabling.
Where an escape route needs to be separated from the rest of the premises by fire-resisting construction, e.g. a dead-end corridor or protected stairway, then you should ensure the following;
Doors (including access hatches to cupboards, ducts and vertical shafts linking floors) walls, floors and ceilings protecting escape routes should be capable of resisting the passage of smoke and fire for long enough so that people can escape from the building.
Where suspended or false ceilings are provided, the fire resistance should extend up to the floor slab level above. For means of escape purposes a 30 minutes fire-resisting rating is normally enough.
Cavity barriers, fire stopping and dampers in ducts are appropriately installed.
Number of people using the premises
As your escape routes need to be adequate for the people likely to use them you will need to consider how many people, including employees and the public, may be present at any one time. Where premises have been subject to building regulations approval for use as either an office or a shop, the number and width of escape routes and exits will normally be enough for the anticipated number of people using the building. In such buildings where the risk has changed or buildings were constructed before national Buildings Regulations it is still necessary to confirm the provision.
For offices, the maximum numbers of staff, visitors and contractors liable to be in the building at the same time will be known by the responsible person. For shops, the responsible person will normally be aware of the maximum number of people liable to be present from a personal knowledge of trading patterns. There will also be an appreciation of the use of the building by those with special needs, such as the disabled.
Effective management arrangements need to be put in place for those that need help to escape. Consider the following points;
A refuge is a place of reasonable safety in which disabled people can wait either for an evacuation lift or for assistance up or down stairs. Disabled people should not be left alone in a refuge area whilst waiting for assistance with evacuation from the building. Depending on the design and fire resistance of other elements, a refuge could be a lobby, corridor, part of a public area or stairway, or an open space such as a flat roof, balcony or similar place which is sufficiently protected (or remote) from any fire risk and provided with its own means of escape and a means of communication.
Where refuges are provided, they should be enclosed in a fire-resisting structure which creates a protected escape route which leads directly to a place of total safety and should only be used in conjunction with effective management rescue arrangements. Your fire safety strategy should not rely on the fire and rescue service rescuing people waiting in these refuges.
In firefighting lifts (provided in high buildings as firefighting access) are to be used for evacuation, this should be co-ordinated with the fire and rescue service as part of the pre-planned evacuation procedures.
Normal lifts may be considered suitable for fire evacuation purposes, subject to an adequate fire risk assessment and development of a suitable fire strategy by a competent person.
Since evacuation lifts can fail, having reached a refuge a disabled person should also be able to gain access to a stairway (should conditions in the refuge become untenable). An evacuation lift with its associated refuge should therefore be located adjacent to a protected stairway.
Enough escape routes should always be available for use by disabled people. This does not mean that every exit will need to be adapted. Staff should be aware of routes suitable for disabled people so that they can direct and help people accordingly.
Stairways used for the emergency evacuation of disabled people should comply with the requirements for internal stairs in the building regulations, specialist evacuation chairs or other equipment may be necessary to negotiate stairs.
Plans should allow for the careful carrying of disabled people down stairs without their wheelchairs, should the wheelchair be too large or heavy. You will need to take into account health and safety manual handling procedures in addition to the dignity and confidence of the disabled person.
Stairlifts should not be used for emergency evacuation. Where installed in a stairway used for emergency evacuation, no parts of the lift, such as its carriage rail, should be allowed to reduce the effective width of the stairway or any other part of an emergency evacuation route.
Where ramps are necessary for the emergency evacuation of people in wheelchairs they should be gentle as possible. Ramps should be constructed in accordance with Approved Document M.