Safety within a building is always a major consideration. During an emergency like a fire, where there is a need to evacuate a building, thought must be made for those that cannot simply walk down the stairs. The use of lifts during an emergency is, at best, restricted but more often than not prevented, which leaves the problem of evacuating those who are physically unable to negotiate stairways.
The solution:- temporary areas of safety which retain a fire for a minimum of 30 minutes. Persons within these areas must be in direct communication with those in control of any emergency situation, such as fire officers or building management. These spaces are known as ‘Refuge Areas’.
A Refuge Area must meet certain criteria which are covered in the British Standard BS5588 part 8 (Fire Precautions in the design, construction and use of buildings – Code of practice for the means of escape for disabled people). This standard applies to “all buildings except single family dwelling houses, flats and maisonettes and buildings used as a house in multiple occupation”. BS5588 part 8 is not applicable to buildings purpose-built for the disabled, such as health care premises, which are covered by other Government guidelines.
What is the standard?
• Certain people will not be able to use stairways without assistance. For this reason ‘refuge’ areas are necessary.
• Definition ‘refuge’ – enclosed fire-resisting area, served directly by safe route to an exit.
• Refuge areas must be provided with independent communication between occupants and building management.
• The two-way communication system must be readily operated by and comprehensible to any potential users.