Fire Safety in Tall Buildings: How can Evaclite help?

In London alone, there are 450 tall buildings in the pipeline. Of those, over 90 are being constructed, and the pace of tall building development in the capital is accelerating, with 28 tall building completions in 2017, and 40 more in 2018. 

The rate and complexity of tall building construction are increasing and of course, with our population continuing to grow, cities will house many more people in tall buildings in the future. This being considered, our risk management systems need to align with this rapid growth and meet the growing demand. This is where dynamic and adaptive signage could be the answer for tall building safety regulations. 

The Buildings Regulations 2010 set a list of minimum standards in respect of health and safety which must be abided by when constructing new buildings. These minimum standards include, for example, the requirement that a building must be, ‘designed and constructed so that there are appropriate provisions for the early warning of fire’ and ‘appropriate means of escape from a  fire’. However, It is vital to note that the Building Regulations do not specify exactly how these standards should be met or what provisions should be put in place to meet the standards. This is often up to the construction team, among other contributors, such as fire engineers, to dictate how the standards will be met and what exact actions need to be taken to meet them. 

This doesn’t always result in the highest standards of fire safety, as with lots of things, it’s on a scale and people have different opinions of what the standards are. This is where some people fall into the trap of doing the bare minimum when schedules and deadlines are tight, do we really look at the bigger picture? Do we consider what the best option would be, or simply look to tick a box. 

Key issues in tall building evacuation:
Currently, within the UK, there is no clear, authoritative definition of what constitutes a tall building or a high rise building, they tend to vary by local authority area. For example, in London, a tall building is defined as ‘those that are substantially taller than their surroundings, cause a significant change to the skyline or are larger than the threshold sizes set for the referral of planning applications to the Mayor (30m threshold). 

However, in other areas of the UK, a tall building can be defined as any building over the height of 20m. However, contradicting this again, Approved Document B to the Building Regulations makes reference to a height of 18m. 

If your organisation is located in a tall commercial building, the following issues regarding the safe evacuation of occupants in the event of a fire should be considered: 

  • A standard, safe egress time as taller buildings will take longer to evacuate
  • The capacity of the escape routes to allow occupants to escape safely
  • The continued integrity of escape routes/building structure in a fire
  • The inability for the fire and rescue service to rescue occupants externally to the building above a certain height
  • Disabled guests, requiring assistance in an evacuation
  • How the responsibility is allocated to a person where there is shared occupancy of tall buildings (office blocks)
  • Risks involved with extended vertical evacuation down staircases (eg trips and falls).


How does Dynamic and Adaptive signage help? 

It all comes down to two key factors, ‘increased affordance’ (you can see the sign clearly and quickly) and confidence (the dynamic pulsing green arrow emphasises the best route out).

Relying on our human instinct isn’t enough to get us out of danger, but with the use of dynamic signage, you see the signs quicker, you are given clear instructions and you can make your decision with 100% confidence. This speeds up the evacuation process and in a high rise building with multiple corridors and exits, this will reduce the bottlenecks. People will now disperse to the nearest exit, as guided by the signs, instead of returning to the first exit they can think of, inevitably being the way they came into the building. 

Dynamic signs will give you a clear indication to the nearest exit, but if the nearest exit routes become compromised, because of either the initial or a developing hazard Evaclite signs become ‘adaptive’. They can adapt due to ‘cause and effect programming’ via the fire panel which identifies using sensors or human instruction that an exit route is now compromised and the emergency exit sign will change from green to red, indicating a negated exit route. Alternate safe exit routes will then be highlighted via the green dynamic flashing signs, preventing guests exiting towards the known hazard.

Here are a few examples of the benefits some Evaclite customers have shared with us:

Showing people the best routes to use during an evacuation makes people happier and more confident during a stressful time.

Improved affordance for emergency exit signs makes for a quicker evacuation.

Dynamic signs help reduce evacuation times with greater affordance for guests and a better reaction to false alarms.

People can be directed away from the fire and smoke ladened exits automatically and in real-time.

Reducing bottlenecks and congestion during an evacuation at door exits and in stairwells by showing people better more viable and quicker/easier routes away from the fire or out of the building.

Happier customers have confidence in staying in one of your hotels, in preference and hopefully more often.

Your hotel brand gets to show guests you really care about their experience, service excellence and their overall well-being.

Occupancy rates might increase with better reviews and greater confidence.

Reduce or avoid negative feedback and reviews.


So, it’s true, a passive sign does give you regulatory compliance, however when you are faced with a fire alarm activation and don’t know what move to make next, whether it’s a real fire or not, dynamic and adaptive signs come into their own.

Are you prepared? Take a look at our range of Dynamic and Adaptive Emergency Exit Signs.


Fire Risk Assessments in Hotels: The Complete Guide

Without question, the most important aspect of hotel fire safety is the safe evacuation of your guests. Guest safety should always be at the forefront of a hotel managers priorities and this should be consistent throughout all risk assessments and fire evacuation plans.  

Hotel managers need to think much further ahead than simply the availability and protection of suitable fire escape routes because these are easy to assess. There are many variables to consider that you are often unable to strategically plan for. At the heart of a hotel’s priorities should be customer satisfaction and fire safety is another crucial way that we can meet the high standards of customer care that is expected from hotels. 

Evacuation Issues to Consider

The evacuation of hotel guests certainly isn’t a simple process, it’s something that takes careful planning, but equally a fire is unpredictable, meaning you can’t always follow set rules. 

In the event of a fire, evacuation is likely to involve large numbers of people in various areas of the hotel; dining rooms, bar, cafe areas, leisure facilities and bedrooms. When the hotel is at its busiest the sheer number of guests and people make the job of evacuation even tougher for staff. Its important staff are briefed for busy times and quiet times (for example at night – when a large percentage of fire alarms, false and real go off). Often staff numbers have to be increased to align with the growing number of occupants and they will all need to be briefed and thoroughly trained on the evacuation strategy. 

An important part of a fire evacuation strategy is to ensure that all guests are given the knowledge to escape to a place of complete safety, easily and quickly, without the need for the fire service to intervene. 

In the larger-scale hotels, it may be useful to also consider a phased evacuation, as it’s not always convenient for everyone to comply to the same set of rules, different floors will present a number of separate issues and challenges. 

In the process of establishing the perfect arrangement for everyone, hotel managers will need to consider a variety of points, some of these are listed below: 

High-Risk Guests

Guests with mobility restrictions:
Disabled guests may be unable to move quickly or even move at all, because of this they may also not be able to use the staircases. As a rule, guests with high-risk mobility issues, such as those in wheelchairs should be booked into ground floor rooms, to avoid complications with stairs and also lifts (which should be out of use during a fire). If this isn’t possible, due to overcapacity, areas for safe refuge will need to be predetermined in the strategy, and these areas will need to be stocked ready with evacuation aids such as stretchers. In the event of a fire, the staff on duty will also be held responsible for keeping these customers safe. 

Guests with hearing impairments:
In the event of a fire, the first signal for guests is the fire alarm and this could cause significant issues for the guests who have hearing impairments. In this situation, the hotel staff need to identify the guests with hearing impairments and they can be issued with ‘under pillow buzzers’ that can either be triggered by the staff or the fire alarm itself.

Visiting Contractors:
It is also important to consider other people who may be on-site, such as visiting contractors carrying out building work or people working events. The risk with these groups of people is that they’re unlikely to be as familiar with the building. It is essential that they also carry out a fire safety induction so that they are aware of the fire emergency arrangements. 

Isolated Workers:
Workers in isolated areas are at risk of missing fire alarm activations. Collecting the mobile numbers of these workers is an effective way of tracking this risk. 

Potential obstacles in the evacuation process

The most common milestone to overcome in the evacuation is speed. Guests are often extremely slow to evacuate their bedrooms. The cry wolf effect comes into play when they assume that it’s another false alarm or drill.  Guests may open their doors and look around to check for other guests evacuating. Vocal alarm systems can help with this issue, this way staff can communicate with guests, confirming that there is a fire and advising them on the next steps. 

Stubborn Guests
guests can be stubborn when it comes to leaving the building, they may have just sat down for dinner or just bought a drink that they are now reluctant to leave behind in fear of losing their money. But, with the staff’s reassurance that their money will be reimbursed and their meals replaced, this should instil confidence in the guest.

No re-enter policy
Large families and parties can be split up in the panic of an evacuation. Staff should ensure a policy where guests cannot re-enter the building to find loved ones and arrangements can be put in place for the care of unaccompanied children.

Alcohol-Impaired guests
Another obstacle that many hotels don’t consider, is people who are impaired due to alcohol consumption. This can hinder people’s ability to rouse from their beds and severely hinder their reaction time to the sound of the fire alarm and the urgency of the evacuation. 


Information for staff and guests 

It is crucial that staff have extensive training in fire safety regulations and are armed with a clear set of actions to follow if a fire does occur. In addition to this, extra fire warden training will need to be provided for the key front of house staff who are most likely to be involved.

Guests must be provided with clear guidance of what to do in the event of a fire. Fire action notices in common areas and annotated floor plan drawings on the back of the bedroom doors comply with standards.

Throughout the night shifts, staff numbers are likely to be lower than normal. Considering this, there should be a list of phone numbers of key staff, such as the Hotel Manager who is ‘on-call’ in the event of a fire incident.

Wrapping up

When the next evacuation occurs, get your Hotel Management Team to evaluate the current evacuation process and identify any issues that occurred or aspects that didn’t run smoothly, to then relay this information back to the hotel staff. 

Although a fire risk assessment may confirm that suitable and sufficient physical fire safety arrangements have been organised, hotel managers also need to implement a well thought through Fire Evacuation Plan to ensure that their hotel can be successfully evacuated.

Legislation at this point does not enforce any implementation of dynamic and adaptive signage. However, there is a piece of emerging legislation appearing at the end of August, that does confirm its appearance in the future, so hotel managers need to be prepared for this. The emerging legislation states: ‘if an exit is blocked due to a fire, there should be a system in place to steer people away from that exit towards a close viable one’, this could result in not only an interest in Dynamic but a demand for it within multiple sectors. 

Are you prepared? Take a look at our range of Dynamic and Adaptive Emergency Exit Signs.