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Last edited 15 Oct 2020
Place of safety
A place of safety may also referred to as a Fire Assembly Point. It is designated as a safe area beyond the premises for people to gather and be accounted for if an emergency evacuation of the building should occur. The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRO) states that “emergency routes and exits must lead as directly as possible to a place of safety”.
 Relative or ultimate safety
There are two levels for places of safety - relative (or comparative) and ultimate.
A place of relative safety is somewhere that is fire protected, but it should only be used for a limited period of time. This location establishes a barrier (normally 30 minutes’ fire resistance) between the person escaping and the emergency. A place of relative safety can be a protected escape stairway or other type of fire protected compartment leading to a final exit which leads to a place of ultimate safety.
A place of ultimate safety should be accessible through unlocked fire exit doors that open in the direction of the evacuation at the final exit point of the building. It should be situated far from the building, ideally in the open air.
 Who designates the place of ultimate safety?
The RRO requires that a ‘responsible person’ (the person having control of the building, or a degree of control) takes reasonable steps to reduce the risk from fire and ensures people can safely escape if there is a fire. This includes all people that might visit the premises. (For more information, see Responsible person under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.)
Before taking any action, the responsible person must make a proper assessment of the risks to which the relevant people are exposed, to identify which measures they must take to comply with the Order. Assessments will depend on the type and function of the property, the users and the risks associated with that use.
During the assessment, it is up to the responsible person to determine a place that is a safe area beyond (and not within) the premises. This is then established as the place of safety. This point should be well marked with clear, easy to understand signage.
 Requirements for establishing a place of safety
An ultimate place of safety should be easy to access during an emergency. It should be a gathering area where the responsible person (or other designated personnel such as fire wardens) can immediately determine if everyone has left the building.
No internal location, such as a walled courtyard, should be designated as an ultimate place of safety. This type of location is unsuitable, since occupants would have to re-enter the building in order to vacate the premises completely.
In some situations, the nature of the emergency may dictate the ultimate place of safety. For instance, the location may be different for a fire, chemical leak, terror threat or other emergency situation. The location of the ultimate place of safety should be reviewed if changes occur on the premises or if there are shifts in the building occupancy demographic (for instance, if unused office space is converted to a child care facility).
The location “should be sufficiently far from the premises to avoid interference with the fire and rescue service or danger from falling debris”. Selecting a suitable location may be dependent on factors such as:
- The number of people who may need to shelter at the assembly point at one time.
- The possible mobility limitations of those who will need to use the place of safety.
- The path to safety (including suitability of terrain, possible vehicular traffic - especially emergency vehicles - and other limitations).
- Shelter and lighting (including those for people with special requirements).
- Adjacency to other buildings or building equipment that may be dangerous, particularly if smoke or fire are present.
For larger facilities, it may be necessary to assign several places of safety. This may also be necessary for smaller facilities with complex exit requirements or when extreme weather conditions interfere with standard procedures.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Approved Document B.
- Assembly area.
- BS 9991:2015 Fire safety in the design, management and use of residential buildings. Code of practice.
- BS 9999: Code of practice for fire safety in the design, management and use of buildings.
- Building evacuation.
- Emergency lighting.
- Escape route.
- Exit passageway.
- Fire doors in buildings.
- Protected stairway.
- Risk assessment under The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005
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