What to Consider — Creating an Evacuation Plan for a High-Rise Building
An evacuation plan is a critical component of fire safety for all commercial buildings. An effective plan ensures that tenants, employees, and customers can efficiently escape the structure and get to a safe place. In high-rise buildings, an evacuation plan requires some modifications geared toward the need to move many people of varying physical capabilities a considerable vertical distance. Here are some of the more important factors to consider when devising an evacuation plan for a high-rise structure.
- The basics are the same: No matter the size of the building, the need to move many people out of harm’s way is the basic component of an evacuation plan. Concentrate your planning on the most efficient way to move the largest number of people out of the structure. Ensure the building’s occupants know what is expected of them during a fire emergency. Post diagrams showing escape routes and make sure the routes are clearly marked and free of obstacles. Institute a regular program of fire safety education and fire drills.
- Ensure alarms and notification systems are inspected regularly: Early warning of a fire or emergency is key to effective and safe evacuation. Make sure the building’s fire alarms, sprinkler systems, voice communication systems, and other fire safety devices are inspected and maintained according to local fire regulations or industry best practices.
- Recognize the unique needs of a high-rise evacuation: In a high-rise structure, the need to move many people quickly and in an orderly fashion is complicated by the fact that individuals will have to use stairs to move either up or down in the building. This means that the stairwells will be full of anxious, frightened people who may not be thinking clearly. A stair-based evacuation can also take considerable time to finish–two hours or more is not uncommon for larger structures. Understand the characteristics of an emergency situation in this context and design procedures to deal with it.
- Accommodate those with physical limitations: Moving up or down multiple flights of stairs is likely to exceed the physical capabilities of some people in the building. In addition, persons with disabilities will be at a significant disadvantage during a stairwell-based evacuation. Establish areas where those with physical limitations can gather to wait for emergency personnel. These areas could include a larger landing in the stairwell or a specially designated room on the same floor. Encourage occupants to establish a “buddy system” so that persons with limitations have someone who is assigned to help them during an emergency.
- Do not use elevators: Evacuation plans must deal with the fact that elevators cannot be used during a high-rise evacuation. If the power to the building is cut off during the fire, for example, anyone in an elevator could be trapped with reduced likelihood of rescue. Make sure your high-rise evacuation plan includes specific procedures for disabling elevators or otherwise prohibiting their use.
- Do not go to the roof: Even if it seems like it will take a long time to exit to the street, do not go to the roof to be rescued or wait out the situation. Fires can make it extremely dangerous to be on a roof. Helicopter evacuations from roofs are very rare and can be extremely dangerous to everyone involved.
- Do not break windows or use windows to exit: In a fire, a broken window can allow smoke to enter the area where you’ve taken shelter. Falling glass can damage firefighting equipment down below or injure emergency personnel. Avoid trying to exit or jump from windows; a jump from anything higher than a second-story window could be fatal.
Our goal is to help educate our customers about Plumbing, HVACR, Fire Protection, and Alarm Systems in Mechanical, Commercial, and Residential settings. For more information on fire safety and how to devise an evacuation plan for a high-rise building, and to view projects we’ve worked on, visit Sobieski Commercial!!