- Project plans
- Project activities
- Legislation and standards
- Industry context
Last edited 20 Nov 2020
International Fire Safety Standards: Common Principles, Safe Buildings Save Lives, First Edition, published by the International Fire Safety Standards Coalition in 2020 defines evacuation as: ‘The procedures and processes used to enable people to leave a Building.’
Building evacuation is the process of making sure everyone inside a building gets out safely and in a timely and controlled manner in the event of an emergency, such as fire. Buildings commonly use equipment such as fire alarms, exit signage, emergency lighting and emergency escape routes to facilitate evacuations.
In 1994, John Abrahams investigated building evacuation strategies and found that the independent variables were the building’s complexity and the mobility of the individuals. The strategy changes from ‘fast egress’ to ‘slow egress’ as the complexity increases and mobility decreases. At the end of this scale is the strategy of ‘moving to a safe place inside the building’ where help can reach the individuals. In most buildings, these ‘Safe Havens’ will be in the stairwell, and in areas with a particular risk of earthquakes, buildings may incorporate them on each floor.
A simultaneous evacuation is where building occupants react to the alarm and follow the designated means of escape to the place of safety away from the building. This may not be suitable or practicable for larger or more complex buildings due to the risks of congestion at escape routes. These buildings may be designed so that evacuation is initially limited to those nearest the hazard, before being extended if necessary to others. This type of phased evacuation strategy requires different alarm signals – a warning and an evacuation signal.
Complex or large buildings, or those with occupants who may be immobile, such as hospitals and care homes, may be sub-divided into different fire compartments to allow slower evacuation times. Public buildings such as cinemas and theatres may have a staff alarm which enables pre-arranged evacuation plans to be put into action.
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 requires that owners of premises other than private dwellings appoint a responsible person who takes reasonable steps to make sure people can safely escape if there is a fire.
A fire marshal, also known as a fire warden, is an individual who is allocated, or who volunteers, to take on fire safety responsibilities for their organisation. In the event of an emergency, they must helping evacuate people from the building to assembly points, ensure they have a list of those who are normally present in the building, as well as the signing-in book, and carry out a roll-call to ensure everyone has left the building safely.
The approved document defines an escape route as ‘that part of the means of escape from any point in a building to a final exit’ where a final exit is ‘The termination of an escape route from a building giving direct access to a street, passageway, walkway or open space and sited to ensure the rapid dispersal of persons from the vicinity of a building so that they are no longer in danger from fire and/or smoke.’
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
Featured articles and news
Organisation alerts membership to findings of IHBC research.
Four outstanding professionals recognised.
Sustainable flooring from super strong grass.
Organisation presents reactions from industry leaders.
New infrastructure bank to be based in the North of England.
Fairer, faster, greener. A summary of the key points.
Strategies to help provide safer working conditions.
Protecting flora, fauna and the other natural features of Scotland.
Architecture considered somewhere between 'sublime and beautiful'.
Polish piano factory revived through an energy-oriented tune up.
Dynamic architectural approach sets out to restore and improve the environment.
Entries accepted from 1 December 2020 to 14 April 2021.
Procedure discontinued for sale or re-mortgage of buildings without cladding.