Place of Safety

2015 Dublin Declaration on ‘Fire Safety for All’ Adopted !

2015-04-20:  After a lengthy, constructive and very interesting discussion which resulted in some important text revisions … on Friday afternoon in Dublin, 10 April 2015, at the ‘Fire Safety for All’ Conference (www.fire-safety-for-all.eu) … all participants voted to adopt, support and promote the 2015 Dublin Declaration on ‘Fire Safety for All’ in Buildings !

With regard to International Distribution and Promotion of the Declaration … many readers of this Technical Blog belong to varied professional, social and business networks.  I would earnestly ask you to circulate the Declaration widely within those networks, and to actively seek the support of as many organizations and individuals as possible.  This support should be confirmed by means of a simple e-mail message to: fireox@sustainable-design.ie … and I will then add the names of supporters to the Fire Safety for All WebSite (www.fire-safety-for-all.eu).  Copies of the Declaration, in PDF and WORD Formats, can also be downloaded from the WebSite.

Fire-Safety-4-All_smlThis Benchmark Declaration on Accessibility and Fire Safety for People with Activity Limitations … is an essential reference document for all stakeholders and interested parties.  It draws a long-awaited, broad, distinct and stable line in the shifting sands of a rapidly evolving Sustainable Human Environment (social, built, virtual, economic, and institutional) ….

1.   As of 14 July 2015 … 156 Countries, plus the European Union, have ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).  Since the Convention became an international legal instrument in 2008, however, the UN CRPD Preamble’s Paragraph (g): ‘mainstreaming disability in sustainable development strategies’ … and Paragraph (v): ‘the importance of accessibility in enabling people to fully enjoy their rights and fundamental freedoms’ … have tended to receive insufficient public attention and scrutiny.  The Dublin Declaration on ‘Fire Safety for All’ in Buildings and the related CIB W14 Research Working Group 5’s Reflection Document have been drafted with those two paragraphs very much in mind.

2.   Although a situation of serious risk for vulnerable building users … it is not appropriate to deal with Fire Safety for All in Buildings under Article 11: ‘Situations of Risk & Humanitarian Emergencies’ of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities … where situations of grave risk are handled, e.g. Extreme Man-Made Events, Hybrid Disasters, Severe Natural Events, Complex Humanitarian Emergencies … all amid Accelerating Climate Change & Variability.

Take the case of an earthquake, for example … where there will be large-scale serious building damage and many, many building collapses throughout an affected region.  On the other hand, when considering fire safety for all in any building … it is necessary that the building shall remain not just structurally stable, but serviceable.

3.   It is more appropriate, particularly since the publication of International Standard ISO 21542 (2011) with its expanded definition of Building Accessibility, that Fire Safety for All be incorporated into the meaning and implementation of Article 9: ‘Accessibility’ of the CRPD … in exactly the same manner that fire safety is fully integrated into everyday mainstream building use, and mainstream building fire safety codes and standards.

As there are no references, at all, to either ‘fire’ or ‘safety’ in Articles 9 … there is much to be explained and clarified in the 2015 Dublin Declaration on ‘Fire Safety for All’ in Buildings, if ‘real’ implementation is to be both practical and successful.

An improved and updated definition of Building Accessibility is contained in Principle 3 of the Dublin Declaration …

‘Accessibility of a Building encompasses the complete cycle of independent use, in a dignified manner and on an equal basis with others … and includes the approach, entry and use of a building and its facilities, egress during normal conditions and removal from its vicinity … and, most importantly, safe evacuation during a fire incident to a place of safety which is remote from the building and reached by way of an accessible route.’

4.   The Dublin Declaration contains a Preamble, Principles 1-9 which are headlined below, and an Appendix with many Terms and Definitions …

Principle 1 – A Human Right
Principle 2 – Successful Implementation
Principle 3 – Building Accessibility
Principle 4 – Design for Safe Evacuation
Principle 5 – Accessible EICT’s
Principle 6 – Fire Safety Skills
Principle 7 – Reasonable Spatial Provision
Principle 8 – Building Management
Principle 9 – Firefighters

5.   Existing approaches to Fire Safety, Protection & Evacuation in Buildings for People with Activity Limitations … as described and illustrated in the notable examples of British Standard B.S. 9999 (2008), Singapore’s FSR 7 (2011), and Hong Kong’s Fire Safety Code Addendum (2014) … are technically inadequate, tokenistic, discriminatory, create barriers to social participation, and violate human rights.  Therefore, any further use or recourse to such existing approaches must be terminated immediately !

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2015  DUBLIN  DECLARATION  ON  ‘FIRE SAFETY FOR ALL’  IN  BUILDINGS
A Call to Action and Successful Implementation !

(Adopted in Dublin, 2015-04-10)

Meeting In  Dublin, Ireland … on Thursday and Friday, 9 and 10 April, 2015

In Co-Operation With  the International Council for Research & Innovation in Building & Construction (CIB), Rehabilitation International’s International Commission on Technology & Accessibility (RI-ICTA), the Global Alliance for Accessible Technologies & EnvironmentS (GAATES), and the EUropean Concept for Accessibility Network (EuCAN) ;

Recognizing  the integral and interdependent nature of the natural and human environments (social, built, virtual, economic and institutional) on this small planet Earth, our common home … and the need for harmonized principles to inspire and guide the peoples of the World in the enhancement of a human environment which cherishes the dignity, worth and many abilities of every person ;

Whereas  in the United Nations Charter, the U.N. Member States pledged their respect for, and the protection and observance of, fundamental human and social rights … and have determined to promote social development and better standards of living for all ;

Recalling  the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), adopted on 10th December 1948 … which established a global framework of human and social rights – basic needs and protections – and fundamental freedoms for every person and communal gathering ;

Recalling Also  the Rio de Janeiro Declaration on Sustainable Social Development, Disability & Ageing, adopted on 11th December 2004 … which stressed the importance of the social aspects in Sustainable Human & Social Development ;

Mindful Especially  of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), adopted on 13th December 2006 … the principal aim of which is to ensure that the human environment is sufficiently accessible to permit a vulnerable and major population group in all communities to safely exercise and enjoy the human and social rights and fundamental freedoms described in the 1948 UDHR ;

Working Towards  the achievement of justice, equality of opportunity, social inclusion, active participation and development for every person with an activity limitation in all communities … and recognizing that accessibility of the human environment is an essential prerequisite for the above, and that fire safety for all is a critical life safety component of that accessibility ;

Aware Always  of the universal reality that there is still a strong social stigma associated with disability and, particularly, mental ill-health … that much of the human environment is not accessible for all, and even where it is robustly mandated in law, the quality of that accessibility is poor … and that fire safety guidelines for people with activity limitations in buildings, if they exist, are inadequate and/or tokenistic, and rarely implemented ;

Welcoming the launch of the CIB Working Commission 14: Fire Safety – Research Working Group 5’s Reflection Document: Buildings & ‘Fire Incident Human Behaviour and Abilities’ which presents a practical examination and general overview of fire safety for all

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Addressed to every Country and the European Union – those many Voluntary Parties to the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities – and the Politicians, Authorities Having Jurisdiction, State Agencies, Professional Bodies & Institutions, Non-Governmental Organizations, Charitable & Private Organizations, etc., based within those separate jurisdictions:

We Declare That The Following Principles Must …

Be carefully studied, successfully implemented, and independently monitored … supported by Benchmarking, reliable Data and Statistics, and the informed use of pertinent Accessibility & Fire Safety Related Performance Indicators …

Principle 1 – A Human Right

Full and effective accessibility of the Human Environment (social, built, virtual, economic and institutional) is a fundamental human and social right, i.e. a basic need, for people with activity limitations – it is an essential prerequisite for the safe exercise and enjoyment of those rights, protections and freedoms set down in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and subsequent international rights instruments … and crucially, for their health, participation, inclusion and development in all communities.

Principle 2 – Successful Implementation

Successful accessibility implementation … meaning high quality accessibility performance in the built environment … is reliant upon:

  • A robust legal base mandating accessibility for all and fire safety for all ;
  • Determined political will ;
  • Sufficient public financial resources ;
  • A compassionate and understanding bureaucracy at all levels ;
  • Competent … meaning duly educated, trained and experienced in accessibility and fire safety design … spatial planners, architects, structural engineers, fire engineers, quantity surveyors, technical controllers, industrial designers, building managers, and people at all levels in construction organizations ;
  • Independent monitoring of accessibility and fire safety performance ;
  • Innovative, well-designed accessibility and fire safety related products and systems which can be shown to be ‘fit for their intended use’.

Principle 3 – Building Accessibility

Accessibility of a Building encompasses the complete cycle of independent use, in a dignified manner and on an equal basis with others … and includes the approach, entry and use of a building and its facilities, egress during normal conditions and removal from its vicinity … and, most importantly, safe evacuation during a fire incident to a place of safety which is remote from the building and reached by way of an accessible route.

Principle 4 – Design for Safe Evacuation

Accessibility design criteria must be infused into all of the practical, day-to-day work of building designers and, especially, in the development of project-specific fire engineering design objectives … and be applied from the initial stages of building design, through to the construction and reliable life cycle operation of vertical and horizontal fire evacuation routes facilitating contraflow, areas of rescue assistance, fire safety related signage, controls and fittings, fire prevention and protection measures, fire safety management procedures, routes to and locations of places of safety, etc., etc.
• Evacuation way finding in buildings must be intuitive and obvious ;
• 3 Keywords for building designers must be: reality – reliability – redundancy.

Principle 5 – Accessible EICT’s

Electronic, information and communication technologies are ubiquitous in today’s complex built and virtual environments.  During a real fire incident in a building, they serve a function which is critical for the safety of all building users and firefighters, property protection, minimizing environmental damage and harm, and sustainability. For that reason, they must have a control and/or user interface which is accessible for all.

Principle 6 – Fire Safety Skills

People with activity limitations who occupy or use a building frequently must be included in all practice fire evacuations, in order to learn the skill of safe independent evacuation to an accessible place of safety remote from the building.  During a real fire incident, evacuation assistance provided by other building users or rescue by firefighters, and the time spent waiting for that assistance or rescue in the building must be kept to an absolute minimum.

People with activity limitations must be actively encouraged to participate in fire safety preparatory planning and regular practices … and, without exception, must be consulted and included in all activities concerning their own evacuation from a building.

Management systems and fire protection measures in buildings are never 100% reliable.  People with activity limitations must, therefore, be actively encouraged to be self-aware in situations of risk, and facilitated in learning the skill of self-protection.

Principle 7 – Reasonable Spatial Provision

Reasonable spatial provision must be allocated in a building for the needs of real users, who vary in the range of their individual behaviour and abilities … and for the real building user population profile which, avoiding discrimination, must reflect a society as a whole.  Concerning fire safety for all and the necessary size, for example, of an area of rescue assistance which adjoins a fire evacuation staircase on every floor in a building … the following indicators, exclusive of extra provision for assistants, must guide the architect and fire engineer in the collaborative design process:

(a)  Minimum reasonable provision for people with disabilities in a building – 10% of design occupant/user population ;

(b)  Minimum reasonable provision for people with activity limitations in a building … 15% of design occupant/user population.

Principle 8 – Building Management

Building managers must ensure that fire safety for all preparatory planning is effective, and that practices are held regularly … before any real fire incident occurs.  And as part of their normal, day-to-day functioning … managers must be fully aware that, without due attention to accessibility-related services, product maintenance and occupant/user welfare policies, the quality of accessibility in a building will rapidly deteriorate.

Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans (PEEPS) must not be used to limit or restrict access to any part of a building and its facilities.

Principle 9 – Firefighters

Firefighters must be trained to interact with and rescue people with activity limitations from buildings, using procedures and equipment which will not cause injury to either.  Fire services must ensure that they operate such procedures and possess such regularly serviced equipment.

Emergency service organizations must operate reliable systems to notify the fire services of emergency situations, which are accessible for all and useable by the public at all times.

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APPENDIX – Terms & Definitions

Area of Rescue Assistance:  A sufficiently large building space directly adjoining, and visible from, a main vertical evacuation route – robustly and reliably protected from heat, smoke and flame during and after a fire – where people may temporarily wait with confidence for further information, instructions, and evacuation assistance or rescue, without obstructing or interfering with the evacuation travel of other building users.

Contraflow Circulation in a Fire Building:  Emergency access by firefighters or rescue teams into a building and towards a real fire … while building users are still moving away from the fire and evacuating the building.

Evacuation from a Fire Building:  To withdraw, or cause to withdraw, all users from a building which is on fire … in pre-planned and orderly phased movements to an accessible place of safety remote from the building.

Fire Compartmentation:  The division of a building into fire-tight compartments by fire, smoke and heat resisting elements of construction, in order to …
a)  contain an outbreak of fire, including any smoke and heat generated by the fire ;
b)  prevent damage, within the building, to other adjoining compartments and spaces ;
c)  protect a compartment interior from external fire attack, e.g. fire spread across the building’s facade or from an adjacent building ;
d)  minimize adverse, or harmful, environmental impacts outside the building.

Human Health:  A state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.

People with Activity Limitations (E) / Personnes à Performances Réduites (F):  Those people, of all ages, who are unable to perform, independently and without aid, basic human activities or tasks – because of a health condition or physical / mental / cognitive / psychological impairment of a permanent or temporary nature.

The above Term includes …

  • wheelchair users ;
  • people who experience difficulty in walking, with or without a facilitation aid, e.g. stick, crutch, calliper or walking frame ;
  • frail, older people ;
  • the very young (people under the age of 5 years) ;
  • people who suffer from arthritis, asthma, or a heart condition ;
  • the visually and/or hearing impaired ;
  • people who have a cognitive impairment disorder, including dementia, amnesia, brain injury, or delirium ;
  • women in the later stages of pregnancy ;
  • people impaired following the use of alcohol, other ‘social’ drugs e.g. cocaine and heroin, and some medicines ;
  • people who suffer any partial or complete loss of language related abilities, i.e. aphasia ;
  • people impaired following exposure to environmental pollution and/or other irresponsible human activities, e.g. war and terrorism ;

and …

  • people who experience a panic attack in a real fire situation or other emergency ;
  • people, including firefighters, who suffer incapacitation as a result of exposure, during a real fire, to smoke and poisonous or toxic substances, and/or elevated temperatures.

Place of Safety:
•  Any accessible location beyond a perimeter which is [100] metres from the fire building or a distance of [10] times the height of such building, whichever is the greater ;   and
•  Where necessary triage can safely be rendered … and from where effective medical care and supervision can be organized and provided within one hour of injury (the ‘golden hour’) ;   and
•  Where people can be identified.

Note: If there is a risk of an explosion associated with a fire – multiply the numbers in square brackets above by 4.

Progressive Damage in Fire / Fire-Induced Progressive Damage:  The sequential growth and intensification of structural deformation and displacement, beyond fire engineering design parameters, and the eventual failure of elements of construction in a building – during a fire and the ‘cooling phase’ afterwards – which, if unchecked, will result in disproportionate damage, and may lead to total building collapse.

Note: Fire-induced progressive damage may commence long before there is any breach in the integrity of a fire compartment’s boundaries.

Real Fire:  A fire which develops in a building and is influenced by such factors as the type of building and its occupancy (numbers, abilities and activities) ;  the combustible content (fire load) ;  the ventilation, geometry and thermal properties of the fire compartment or building space (should no fire compartmentation exist) ;  the fire suppression systems in the building, and the actions of firefighters.

Skill:  The ability of a person – resulting from proper training and regular practice – to carry out complex, well-organized patterns of behaviour efficiently and adaptively, in order to achieve some end or goal.

Social Environment:  The complex network of real and virtual human interaction – at a communal or larger group level – which operates for reasons of tradition, culture, business, pleasure, information exchange, institutional organization, legal procedure, governance, human betterment, social progress and spiritual enlightenment, etc.

Social Rights:  Rights to which an individual person is legally entitled, e.g. the right to free elementary education (Art.26(1), UDHR), but which are only exercised in a social context with other people, and with the active support of a competent legal authority, e.g. a Nation State.

Social Wellbeing:  A general condition – in a community, society or culture – of health, happiness, creativity, responsible fulfilment, and sustainable development.

Virtual Environment:  A designed environment, electronically generated from within the built environment, which may have the appearance, form, functionality and impact – to the person perceiving and actually experiencing it – of a real, imagined and/or utopian world.

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Mainstream Good Design & Accessibility for All Signage ?

2013-03-06:   Further to an earlier Post, dated 30 November 2012 … on Sustainable Accessibility for All

Accessibility IS a Fundamental Human Right !

‘ For many Weak and Vulnerable People, today’s Complex Human Environment is inaccessible and unsafe … a hostile ‘reality’ which prevents independent functioning and participation in a local community;  it is a blatant denial of their human rights.’

Relevant Human Environment (social – built – virtual – institutional) Factors … factors which are external, or extrinsic, to the context of a person’s life and living situation … include policies and standards, negative attitudes and stigma, lack of services, problems with service delivery, inadequate funding, lack of accessibility in the built environment and to electronic, information and communication technologies, lack of consultation and involvement, and an absence of reliable data and evidence.

Accessibility for All …

Take a really close look at the photograph below … and see a staircase which, in spite of all the legislation in the EU Member States, contravenes almost every accessibility-related design guideline.  It is far from being an unusual scene in our European Built Environment …

Staircase Egress - Unsafe, Difficult Accessibility !!

Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2009-10-31. Click to enlarge.

Now, imagine the consequences of one, tiny slip …

Which is why our concern must be with Accessibility for All … which includes consciously thinking about children under the age of 5 years, women in the later stages of pregnancy, and frail older people (not all older people !) … and how they use and interact with their surroundings.

In addition, however … our attention must also turn to the large numbers of people, in all of our societies, with health conditions which result in serious impairments, activity limitations and participation restrictions.  As a prime example, consider the Big-4 Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD’s): Cardiovascular Diseases (e.g. heart attacks and stroke), Cancers, Diabetes, and Chronic Lung Diseases.

These 4 NCD’s – targeted in a World Health Organization (WHO) Global NCD Campaign – share health risk factors (tobacco use, unhealthy diet, lack of physical activity, harmful alcohol use) … cause more than 36 million deaths annually (almost 80 % of deaths, from such diseases, occur in low and middle-income countries) … and result in a high proportion of disability (66.5 % of all years lived with disability in low and middle income countries).

NCD’s can limit one or more of a person’s major life and living activities … such as walking, eating, communicating, and caring-for-oneself.  Examples of common NCD-related impairments include paralysis due to stroke, and amputation as a result of diabetic neuropathy.

When Easily Assimilated Signage IS Essential in Buildings …

Good Architectural Design IS ‘intuitive and obvious’ for building users … design characteristics which are critical in the case of Fire Engineering Design.  However, what is intuitive and obvious in Ireland may not be so intuitive and obvious in Turkey … and what is intuitive and obvious in Europe will certainly not be intuitive and obvious in Africa, India, or China.

Architectural & Fire Engineering Design must, therefore, be adapted to Local conditions … culture, social need, etc., etc.

When a building is NOT ‘intuitive and obvious’ for the broad range of potential building users … easily assimilated signage IS essential …

International Standard ISO 21542: ‘Building Construction – Accessibility & Usability of the Built Environment’ was published in December 2011, as a full standard.  In its Introduction, ISO 21542 is linked to the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) … almost like an umbilical cord.

The scope of ISO 21542 covers public buildings.  The Accessibility Agenda in the U.N. Convention is very broad … so much standardization work remains to be completed at international level.

Concerning Accessibility Symbols and Signs … reference should be made to ISO 21542: Clause 41 – Graphical Symbols … and on Pages 106, 107, 108, and 109 … the following will be found:

  • Figure 66 – Accessible Facility or Entrance ;
  • Figure 67 – Sloped or Ramped Access ;
  • Figure 68 – Accessible Toilets (male & female) ;
  • Figure 69 – Accessible Toilets (female) ;
  • Figure 70 – Accessible Toilets (male) ;
  • Figure 71 – Accessible Lift / Elevator ;
  • Figure 72 – Accessible Emergency Exit Route.

I use the word ‘accessibility’, and not ‘access’ … because Accessibility has been defined in ISO 21542 as including … ‘access to buildings, circulation within buildings and their use, egress from buildings in the normal course of events, and evacuation in the event of an emergency’.

A note at the beginning of the standard also clarifies that Accessibility is an independent activity, i.e. assistance should not be necessary … and that there should be an assurance of individual health, safety and welfare during the course of those (accessibility-related) activities.

During the very long gestation of ISO 21542, an overwhelming consensus emerged in favour of using the term Accessibility for All … thereby sidestepping the thorny issue of different design philosophies which are described as being accessibility-related but, in practice, are limited and/or no longer fit-for-purpose.

'Accessibility for All' Symbol ?The Accessibility Symbol used throughout ISO 21542 is shown above.  I know that a small group of people from different countries worked very hard on this particular part of the standard.  My only contribution was in relation to the inclusion of Figure 72, concerning Fire Evacuation.

This ‘accessibility’ symbol is an attractive, modern and, of course, abstract representation of a concept … a person with an activity limitation using a wheelchair.  The symbol succeeds very well in communicating that concept.

However … as an Accessibility for All Symbol … encompassing people with other than functional impairments, e.g. hearing and visual impairments … and children under the age of 5 years, women in the later stages of pregnancy, frail older people … and people with the four main types of non-communicable disease discussed above … is this symbol, also, limited and no longer fit-for-purpose ??

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Proposed New Sign for 'Area of Rescue Assistance'

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Shown next, above, is the proposal for a new Area of Rescue Assistance Sign … which is contained in ISO 7010:2011 / FDAM 115 (2013).  While it is nice to finally see this Safety Sign appear in the mainstream of safety signage … the title being proposed for the sign and the explanatory texts which accompany it are very problematic …

  • The technical term being proposed – Evacuation Temporary Refuge – is too long and too difficult to understand ;
  • The explanatory texts which accompany this Sign are very confusing and misleading.

This problem has arisen because the people who drafted ISO 7010:2011 / FDAM 115 (2013) hadn’t a bull’s notion that ISO 21542 even existed !

In ISO 21542, we use the term Area of Rescue Assistance … which is easy for everybody to understand, including building users, building managers and firefighters, etc., etc.

We also explained, in ISO 21542, that a Place of Safety is a remote distance from the building … not anywhere inside the building !

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Mainstreaming Disability …

U.N. CRPD – Preamble

(g)  Emphasizing the importance of mainstreaming disability issues as an integral part of relevant strategies of sustainable development,

As ‘disability’ moves closer towards … and is integrated and fully included in the ‘mainstream’ of sustainable community life and living … it is absolutely imperative that individuals and organizations who make up the Disability Sector become much more cohesive (far less fractious within) … that they begin to fully understand the practices and procedures of the mainstream … and actively and robustly engage with that mainstream.

It is ridiculous, for example, that a large amount of the Sector’s energy is still being diverted into meaningless meditations and endless tracts on whether it is ‘universal design’, or ‘design-for-all’, or ‘inclusive design’, or ‘facilitation design’, etc … when an entirely new design paradigm is being demanded by a world (our small planet when seen from the moon !), which is experiencing enormous levels of human poverty, natural resource shortages, human rights violations, and severe weather events.  The overriding priority must be ‘real’ implementation … Effective Accessibility for All !

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'Earthrise' from Apollo 14

Colour photograph – ‘Earthrise’ – taken from the Apollo 14 Spacecraft … showing a bright colourful Earth, in a dense black ‘sky’, rising above the pale surface of the Moon. Click to enlarge.

NASA’s Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth

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And … Effective Accessibility for All is but one component of …

‘Social Wellbeing for All in a Sustainable Built Environment’

Refer also to …

2004 Rio de Janeiro Declaration on Sustainable Social Development, Disability & Ageing

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Update:  2013-05-31 …

While the wider international design community is working hard on developing an array of Accessibility Symbols to facilitate different health condition and impairment categories, and to suit different environmental situations, e.g. a fire emergency in a building … I recently encountered another interesting contribution …

Alternative Accessibility Symbol (USA-2011) - Functional Impairment

Click to enlarge. For more information: www.accessibleicon.org

Any comments ??

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Building Fire Emergencies – What is a ‘Place of Safety’ ?

2009-10-24:  As I have travelled around … not just Ireland, but many other countries as well … it still remains a puzzle to me, today, why so many Fire Emergency Assembly Areas are located just outside the main entrance of a building.  These locations are not safe in a ‘real’ fire emergency … and they should not even be used for the purposes of test/drill evacuations !

Is the guidance contained in current Building & Fire Regulations, Codes and Standards on what is a ‘Place of Safety’ in a fire emergency clear, simple, direct and precise ?   Are you joking ?   No way !   Let us take a few examples close to home …

In Ireland:

When you look at the array of different Technical Guidance Documents (Building Regulations) at the same time … TGD B (Fire Safety) is way out of proportion, in size, compared to all of the others.  You would expect, therefore, to find exactly what you were looking for in that document.  Wouldn’t you ?

TGD B (2006), Paragraph #1.0.9 – Definitions

Place of Safety

A place, normally in the open air at ground level, in which persons are in no danger from fire.

Clear as mud !   If there is a fire on O’Connell Street in Dublin … a person is safe on Patrick Street in Cork !   But, how is any Building or Facilities Manager expected to work with such a vague definition ? 

In England & Wales:

No practical definition, as such, is readily provided.  The nearest thing to a definition is an amalgam of the following …

Building Regulations, Requirement B1 – Means of Warning & Escape

The building shall be designed and constructed so that there are appropriate provisions for the early warning of fire, and appropriate means of escape in case of fire from the building to a place of safety outside the building capable of being safely and effectively used at all material times.

Approved Document B: Volume 1 – Dwellinghouses & Volume 2 – Buildings Other Than Dwellinghouses

The ultimate place of safety is the open air clear of the effects of the fire.

British Standard BS 9999 : Code of Practice for Fire Safety in the Design, Management & Use of Buildings : 2008

Place of Ultimate Safety

Place in which there is no immediate or future danger from fire or from the effects of a fire.

Again … all as clear as mud !   Again … how is any Building or Facilities Manager expected to work with such vague guidance ?   Have you also noticed the additional obfuscation introduced by use of the word ‘ultimate’ in BS 9999 ?

It is hard to escape the conclusion that what is urgently needed is a fundamental transformation and re-shaping of the tired, antiquated and flawed ad-hoc assembly of prescriptive ‘solutions’ contained in current national building and fire regulations, codes, standards and administrative provisions … whatever their origin !

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Now … try this for clarity, simplicity, directness and precision …

Place of Safety (Fire Incident in a Building, No Explosion Hazard*)

Any location beyond a perimeter which is [100]* metres from the fire building or a distance of [10]* times the height of such building, whichever is the greater

and

where necessary and effective medical care and attention can be provided, or organized, within one hour of injury

and

where people can be identified.

* Where there is a Risk of Explosion … multiply the numbers in square brackets above by 4.

Was that good for you ?

Furthermore …

The Route to any Place of Safety must be Accessible for All Building Users, including people who use wheelchairs, the visually impaired, frail older people, women in the later stages of pregnancy, children, etc., etc.

Colour photograph showing a Typical Scene at a Building Fire Emergency, with Fire Service Vehicles and Personnel in operation mode.  The haphazard arrangement of firefighting water hoses on the ground makes access difficult for many Building Users to a 'Place of Safety' which is remote from the Fire Building.

Colour photograph showing a Typical Scene at a Building Fire Emergency, with Fire Service Vehicles and Personnel in operation mode. The haphazard arrangement of firefighting water hoses on the ground makes access difficult for many Building Users to a ‘Place of Safety’ which is remote from the Fire Building. Click to enlarge.

With regard to an Adequate, never mind a Proper, Awareness of Disability-Related Issues at a Fire Scene … it is shocking to realize how almost non-existent this is among Fire Services … not just in Ireland and Britain … but in the rest of Europe and North America as well.

Even a hint of criticism will usually … not always … meet the Neanderthal Fire Service Response: “Have you ever been in a ‘real’ building fire ?”

My Response is: “Do you have to be a hen to know when an egg is bad ?”

This discussion will continue later … have no doubt … that is a promise !

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Disability Access Certificates (DAC’s) – Parts M & B ? (II)

2009-10-18:  In everyday practice, the usual short introductory text in Technical Guidance Document M (Ireland) which refers to a linkage between ‘access and use’ of a building with ‘fire safety’ has little impact, because it is not explained … and is typically ignored.

In general … the basic problem is that this issue is hardly dealt with … at all … by Local Fire Authorities right across the country in their handling of Fire Safety Certificates … and where it does become part of the process, it receives inadequate attention.  There are exceptions.

A major drawback with the current vertical approach to our Building Regulations … each of the Parts has its own separate Supporting Technical Guidance Document … is that people are not sufficiently aware of the important horizontal linkages between the different Parts.  For example, all of the other Parts must be linked to Part D.  Quick, run to find out what Part D covers !   Another two examples … Part B must also be linked to Part A and Part M … and Part M must also be linked to Part K and Part B.

So … while grudgingly having to accept that the scope of TGD M should have some limit, under the current flawed system … a precise intervention with just one or two sentences, at critical places in the guidance text, would help to improve the overall consideration of fire safety issues, relevant to Part M, by building designers … and client or construction organizations.

Here are a Few Suggestions for Discussion …

1.  Revise Paragraph #0.6 of Draft TGD M (2009) & Add a Title …

Fire Evacuation for All

” Accessibility encompasses the full range of activity related to buildings: to approach, enter, use, egress from under normal conditions, and evacuate a building independently during a fire emergency, in an equitable and dignified manner.  Provision for access and use must, therefore, be linked to provision for fire evacuation.  For guidance on design for evacuation, reference should be made to Technical Guidance Document B (Fire Safety).”

Note:  No such guidance is contained in TGD B (2006).  It would be a great wonder if any person with a disability could actually evacuate a building which had been designed in accordance with TGD B.  To take a simple example … all of the ‘stairways’ in Table 1.5 of TGD B – Minimum Width of Escape Stairways will not facilitate contraflow or the assisted evacuation of mobility and visually impaired people.  Furthermore, those minimum widths specified in the Table may have a clear width which is 200 mm less.  See Methods of Measurement, Paragraph #1.0.10 (c) (iii) … ” a stairway is the clear width between the walls or balustrades, (strings and handrails intruding not more than 30 mm and 100 mm respectively may be ignored) ” !   What an incoherent mess !!

2.  Insert New Sentence at the End of Paragraph #1.1.1 of Draft TGD M (2009) …

Objective (Approach to Buildings)

” Consideration should be given to the use of the approach and circulation routes around a building as accessible routes to a ‘place of safety’ during a fire emergency.”

3.  Insert New Sentence at the End of Paragraph #1.2.1 of Draft TGD M (2009) …

Objective (Access to Buildings)

” Consideration should be given to the use of all entrances to a building as accessible fire exits during a fire emergency.”

4.  Insert New Paragraph at the End of Paragraph #1.3.4.1 of Draft TGD M (2009) …

Passenger Lifts

” Manual handling of occupied wheelchairs in a fire evacuation staircase, even with adequate training for everyone directly and indirectly involved, is hazardous for the person in the wheelchair and those people – minimum three – giving assistance.  The weight of an average unoccupied powered wheelchair, alone, makes manual handling impractical.  Lifts in new buildings should, therefore, be capable of being used for evacuation in a fire situation.  For guidance on the use of lifts for fire evacuation, reference should be made to Technical Guidance Document B (Fire Safety).”

5.  Insert New Paragraph and New Sentence at the End of Paragraph #1.3.4.2 of Draft TGD M (2009) …

Internal Stairs

” To allow sufficient space to safely carry an occupied wheelchair down or up a fire evacuation staircase, and to accommodate contraflow, i.e. emergency access by firefighters entering a building and moving towards a fire, while people are still evacuating from the building to a ‘place of safety remote from the building, the clear unobstructed width (exclusive of handrails and any other projections, e.g. portable fire extinguishers, notice boards, etc.) of the flight of a single, or multi-channelled, stairs should not be less than 1 500 mm.  The surface width of a flight of stairs should not be less than 1 700 mm.”

Note:  See Footnote (5) to Table 1.5 in TGD B (2006) … ” The minimum widths given in the table may need to be increased in accordance with the guidance in TGD M: Access for People with Disabilities.”   DUH ?

And …

” For the purpose of safe assisted fire evacuation of people, the rise of a step should not have a height greater than 150 mm, and the going of a step should not have a depth less than 300 mm.”

6.  Insert New Sentence at the End of Paragraph #1.5.1 of Draft TGD M (2009) …

Objective (Facilities in Buildings)

” Consideration should be given to the use of relevant facilities within a building, by people with disabilities, for the purposes of fire safety, protection and evacuation.”

7.  Insert New Sentence at the End of Paragraph #1.6.1 of Draft TGD M (2009) …

Objective (Aids to Communication)

” Consideration should be given to the use of relevant aids to communication, by people with disabilities, for the purposes of fire safety, protection and evacuation.”

Note:  More guidance could be provided under each of the individual paragraphs of Section #1.6 of Draft TGD M (2009).  See Draft International Accessibility-for-All Standard ISO 21542.

8.  Insert New Section #2.6 of Draft TGD M (2009) …

Fire Safety in Dwellings for People with Disabilities

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Fire Evacuation of People with Disabilities – Reality Bites ?

2009-03-10:   Regarding Seán’s Comment, dated 2009-03-06.

 

Yes, the guidance provided in Technical Guidance Document B (Ireland) is inadequate … and the same can equally be said of Approved Document B (England & Wales).

 

And yes, you will find only partial answers in British Standard BS 9999, even though it was only published on 31st October 2008 last.

 

Access Consultants in Ireland and Great Britain rarely deal with any matters relating to fire safety in buildings.

 

 

 

Please allow me, therefore, to fill in some gaps for you.  The following guidance is suitable for application in any European country …

 

People with Activity Limitations (2001 WHO ICF) experience many difficulties when attempting to independently evacuate a fire building.  However, our reasoning is very simple.  If we can get things right for the most vulnerable building users, we get them right for everyone else also.

 

 

The Target Destination … whether evacuation is independent, assisted by other building users or accomplished by means of firefighter rescue … is a ‘Place of Safety’.  This term is not well defined in legislation or codes.

 

Building User ‘Place of Safety’:

Any location beyond a perimeter which is [100] metres from the fire building or a distance of [10] times the height of such building, whichever is the greater … and … where necessary and effective medical care and attention can be provided, or organized, within one hour of injury … and … where people can be identified.

 

Where there is a Risk of Explosion … multiply the numbers in square brackets above by 4 (at least !).

 

 

 

All Fire Evacuation Routes – inside and outside a building – should comply with Accessibility Design Criteria.  This is an entirely alien concept to many Fire Prevention Officers in Local Authorities, and Fire Consultants !

 

Panic Attacks, during evacuation in a ‘real’ fire incident, exist.

 

Standard Movement Times, during evacuation in a ‘real’ fire incident, do not exist.

 

 

 

People should be able to reach an ‘Area of Rescue Assistance’ inside a building with ease.  In practice, few people understand what the word ‘refuge’ means (as in … refuge point, refuge area, area of refuge, etc).  As a result, these spaces are regularly misused and/or abused in buildings.  And there is great difficulty translating a word into other languages which, in English, can have so many meanings.  In Italian fire safety legislation, for example, ‘refuge’ has been translated as ‘spazio calmo’.  How crazy is that ?

 

So … what is an ‘Area of Rescue Assistance’ ?

A building space directly adjoining, and visible from, a main vertical evacuation route – robustly and reliably protected from heat, smoke and flame during and after a fire – where people may temporarily wait with confidence for further information, instructions, and/or rescue assistance, without obstructing or interfering with the evacuation travel of other building users.

 

 

This is a notional Area of Rescue Assistance …

 

A Clear Evacuation Width of 1.5 metres on the Evacuation Staircase facilitates ‘contraflow’ in a fire emergency (shown on the lower flight of stairs), i.e. emergency access by firefighters entering a building and moving towards a fire, while building users are moving away from the fire and evacuating the building … as well as allowing sufficient space to safely carry an occupied wheelchair down the staircase (shown on the upper flight of stairs).

 

Drawing showing a notional Area of Rescue Assistance in a Building. Click to enlarge. Based on a design by CJ Walsh. Drawn by S Ginnerup, Denmark.

Drawing showing a notional Area of Rescue Assistance in a Building. Click to enlarge. Based on a design by CJ Walsh. Drawn by S Ginnerup, Denmark.

 

 

Evacuation Skills & Self-Protection from Fire in Buildings …

A ‘skill’ is the ability of a person – resulting from adequate training and regular practice – to carry out complex, well-organized patterns of behaviour efficiently and adaptively, in order to achieve some end or goal.

 

Building users should be skilled for evacuation to a ‘place of safety’, and test/drill/non-emergency evacuations should be carried out sufficiently often to equip building users with that skill.  Consideration should be given to practicing evacuation once every month or, at most, every two months; once a year is inadequate.  In the case of people with a mental or cognitive impairment, there is a particular need to encourage, foster and regularly practice the adaptive thinking which will be necessary during a ‘real’ fire incident.

 

Since Fire Protection Measures and Human Management Systems are never 100% reliable … it is necessary for frail older people and building users with disabilities to be familiar with necessary guidelines for self-protection in the event of a fire emergency.

 

 

Assisted Evacuation & Rescue Techniques …

Firefighters have two functions:

         fighting fires ;  and

         rescuing people who are trapped in buildings, or for some reason, cannot independently evacuate a building which is on fire.

 

People with disabilities are participating more and more, and in ever increasing numbers, in mainstream society.  It is necessary, particularly for firefighters, to become skilled in how best to rescue a person with a disability from a building, using procedures and equipment which will not cause further harm or injury to that person.

 

Manual handling of occupied wheelchairs in a fire evacuation staircase, even with adequate training for everyone directly and indirectly involved, is hazardous for the person in the wheelchair and those people – minimum three – giving assistance.

 

Generally … Powered Wheelchairs are too heavy for manual handling in any situation.

 

For these reasons, all lifts/elevators in new buildings should be capable of being used for fire evacuation.  Lifts/elevators in existing buildings, when being replaced or undergoing major overhaul, should then be made capable of being used for fire evacuation.

 

Local Fire Authorities should ensure that they possess the necessary equipment to rescue people with a wide range of impairments, and that specialized rescue equipment is regularly serviced and maintained.  Every Fire Authority should have an ‘accessible’ and ‘reliable’ Emergency Call System which is available, at all times, to the public within its functional area.

 

It is essential that every Firefighter is fully aware of this important public safety issue, and is regularly trained in the necessary rescue procedures involving people with a wide range of impairments.

 

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