Evacuation of a Tall Building

Recent tragedies have shown the deadly consequences of a failure to have proper procedures in place in the event of a fire. This is particularly true in the case of high-rise buildings which pose unique risks to occupants who may be confused about the exact location of emergency exits or whether they can use lifts to escape. As such, when formulating evacuation plans for high-rise buildings, property owners should always create a detailed fire risk assessment which adequately takes account of the specific risks posed by tall buildings.

What is a fire evacuation plan?

A fire evacuation plan is a written document based on information gathered during a fire risk assessment. Commonly conducted by employers, it should accurately identify all risks should a building need to be evacuated in the event that fire breaks out. It would also include procedures for contacting emergency services as well as how to most efficiently and safely evacuate any occupants from the building.

What should fire risk assessment involve?

The UK government recommends the following 5 key steps in conducting a fire safety risk assessment, of which formulating an evacuation plan is part:

  • Fire hazards: Identify all potential fire hazards, noting the potential for any materials stored in the workplace to ignite, or any potential sources of ignition such as electrical appliances, naked flames, or kitchen fixtures. This information helps to direct choices of firefighting equipment such as extinguishers or sprinkler systems.
  • People at risk: In the event of a fire, evacuation poses a greater difficulty for certain occupants who may be limited in how easily they can evacuate the building. An evacuation plan should take account of occupants with limited mobility or disabilities. This is particularly important in the case of tall buildings where the exit time is much longer. As such, evacuation chairs or other mobility devices should be made available to assist individuals who may have difficulty evacuating in a timely manner.
  • Evaluate and act: This is a reflective step, which entails using the information gathered in steps 1 and 2 to reformulate evacuation plans as fire risks and other relevant information are identified.
  • Record, plan, and train: Record any fire hazards and what steps have been taken to reduce or remove them. Inform key members of staff, such as a designated fire marshal, of both the risks identified in the assessment and the fully up to date evacuation plan. Provide full fire safety training to all members of staff including the evacuation plan. It is important that this is undertaken several times per year to keep employee’s knowledge up to date.
  • Review: The last step, to review and update, is one of the most important aspects of a fire evacuation plan. Fire safety and evacuation plans should be regularly reassessed and updated to reflect any new fire risks. If this is not done, the safety of the occupants are seriously endangered. Building owners and employers should ensure that reassessments are regularly conducted so any new risks can be identified and accounted for.


Disclaimer: The information provided through Legislation Watch is for general guidance only and is not legal advice. Legislation Watch is not a substitute for Health and Safety consultancy. You should seek independent advice about any legal matter.

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