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.