What are the most Common Questions Regarding Building Evacuations?

emergency evacuation buildingsSeveral questions are often asked concerning building evacuations. The following will help to answer the most commonly asked question regarding this matter:

Would the evacuation from high-rise buildings differ from other buildings?
High-rise buildings have several floors and are usually occupied by numerous occupants at a time, who would have to navigate down several flights of stairs in order to evacuate. The concern involves the physical demands placed on certain occupants where the nuance of traveling numerous flights of stairs exceeds their physical capabilities. It has been estimated that the process of evacuating some of the largest high-rise buildings in the world could take as long as two hours.

The current fire and life safety systems installed in most high-rise buildings, which call for the inclusion of automatic fire sprinkler protection, have been developed to control and extinguish a fire, therefore, reducing the need to evacuate all of the occupants. Regarding a general scenario, the occupants on the floor where the fire broke out and on the floors right above and below the fire should immediately use the exit stairs to descend toward a floor level at least several floors below the floor where the fire is present. Once arriving at the nominally safe floor, those occupants should stay and await further instruction from safety officials.

When it comes to readiness for an emergency, what are the critical elements?
The key elements of emergency preparedness should include early warning signals, which typically occur through an alarm or voice communication system, an adequate means of egress involving a dedicated exit route, and occupant familiarity with the plan materializing through knowledge of the plan and practice following the route.

What are a building owners responsibilities in terms of evacuation drills for occupants of buildings?
Although regular emergency drills are not mandated for quite a number of buildings, the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) 101 Life Safety Code requires workplaces, healthcare facilities, and educational institutions, among other organizations, to provide and demonstrate evacuation and relocation plan information, as well as routinely schedule and have drills during designated practice times.

In the midst of an emergency, how will instructions be structured to the actual emergency, and how will those affected receive such instructions?
High-rise building fire alarm systems are mandated to require emergency voice communication capability. Trained emergency personnel can then assess the emergency and broadcast specific messages to the occupants. The occupants who have been determined to be presently involved in the highest potential danger are instructed to use the exit stairs to start their evacuation descent. Occupants of other floors might be instructed to remain where they are and await further instructions, depending on the level of threat they are experiencing. In these situations, only occupants on the fire floor and the floors directly above and below typically receive the emergency messages. Should the scale of the emergency increase, the announcements can be expanded to include additional floors, or possibly, the entire building, if it has been determined reasonable.

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