Safety within a building must always be a major consideration. During an emergency, such as fire, where there is a need to evacuate a building provision must be made for those that cannot 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. Disabled Refuge areas address this issue.
The solution is to provide temporary areas of safety which can retain fire for a minimum of 30 minutes. Persons within these areas must be in direct communication with those in control of the emergency situation, such as fire officers or building management. These spaces are known as Refuge Areas.
A Refuge Area must meet the criteria specified 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.