The Importance Of Having An Effective Escape Plan In High-Rise Buildings

When fire breaks out in a residential building, there’s an immediate threat to life, not just from the flames and heat but from dense clouds of smoke. As fire consumes oxygen, people trapped in a burning building will find it harder to breathe, with the release of carbon monoxide into the air being deadly. Smoke obscures exit routes, causes disorientation, and induces an overwhelming sense of panic, making it more challenging for residents to evacuate the building in a timely manner.

High-rise buildings pose additional challenges not usually found in other properties. Usually, there are significantly more occupants and longer and more complex exit routes, featuring stairs and corridors. Fire and smoke, too, will spread differently than in a low-level building, so it’s critical that a robust and effective building escape plan is implemented to minimise evacuation times and increase the likelihood that residents will be able to escape safely.

Designing An Effective Fire Escape Evacuation Plan

There’s no such thing as a generic fire escape plan. Each plan should be meticulously designed to address the unique challenges of the building: its design, layout, location, the needs of the residents (e.g., age-based or mobility needs) and access challenges. An evacuation plan that does not consider these factors is unlikely to be effective, yet the deficiencies may not be apparent until the plan is put into action – by which time, it could be too late to enact without putting residents in serious danger.

So, what are the principles of an effective apartment building fire escape plan?

Eliminating Confusion And Panic

A fire escape plan provides residents with a clear way to act and a procedure to follow if a blaze occurs. By delivering clarity, residents are less likely to become confused or panicked in an emergency and, therefore, will be more likely to evacuate in a quick and safe manner.

Keeping Residents Informed

In the Grenfell Tower disaster of 2017, conflicting advice meant many residents were unsure how to act when the alarm was raised. An unambiguous plan of action is essential, but it must be shared with residents in advance, as they will look to official advice in an emergency. Plans should be posed prominently where occupants can see and review them, and an annual fire drill should be held so that people understand what to do should a real emergency occur.

The Role Of Fire Doors

Considering how fast fire and smoke spread in a high-rise building is essential when designing an evacuation plan. In a typical blaze, a manageable fire will become something fast-moving and dangerous in only 30 seconds. In multi-storey buildings, fire spreads differently, often being funnelled upwards and downwards by lift shafts and stairways, so effective measures are needed to contain the fire and allow residents time to evacuate unharmed.

Fire doors play a vital role in high-rise apartment escape plans. They should be:

  • FD30, FD60, or FD90-rated, to provide 30, 60, or 90 minutes of protection against smoke and flames.
  • Fitted with a self-closing mechanism so they aren’t accidentally left open.
  • Always kept closed and never wedged open, as well as having the building’s residents educated about the dangers of leaving fire doors open to help eliminate this problem.
  • Fitted by an accredited fire door installer to comply with current UK safety regulations.

Contact Mila Maintenance To Find Out More

At Mila Maintenance, we have over 30 years of experience providing expert fire door installation and maintenance in high-rise accommodations, including social housing, private apartments, and student living.

For more information or to request a free, no-obligation quotation, please call us on 0808 100 8881 or send us a message.

Download The Importance Of Regular Window & Door Maintenance In Commercial Properties guide here

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