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The Philosophy of Escape Essay (Article)

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Updated: Mar 12th, 2022

The main objective of fire safety is life safety. In that regard, the provision of an escape route for everyone within the building is one of the main considerations when designing and constructing non-domestic buildings. The considerations made when constructing buildings are aimed, first of all, to ensure the protection of people, rather than property. In the light of the aforementioned, there are several technical standards that were developed to ensure the safe escape of the building’s inhabitants. These technical standards cover all the possible stages in the process of escape, which include escaping the room of fire origin, escaping from the compartment of origin, escaping the floor of origin, and escaping from the building.

The number of exits is an important technical standard for non-domestic buildings, which ensures that all building users have the opportunity to escape. The calculation of such umber is made according to with to the occupancy of the room, the height of the story above and below the ground, and the travel distance. Accordingly, each of the aforementioned factors is established through specific technical standards as well, e.g. occupancy capacity through the description of room and space and the load factor, recommended travel distance through occupancy profile and building use, etc. In that regard, for each of the established factors, there is a minimum number of exits that would ensure a safe escape.

The destination of escape routes is another factor considered in the technical standards in order to ensure a safe evacuatifromorm the building. These standards include the way access is given to a safe place, i.e. directly, by way of protected zones, by way of a flat roof, or by way of external escape stair. Additionally, no obstacles should be in the way of an escape route, where obstacles might include lifts, escalators, turnstiles a fire shutter, or a manual sliding door. It can be seen that such factors as travel distance and the absence of obstacles, largely emphasize the time factor, in addition to getting people away from harm.

Thus, it can be stated that the principles of safe evacuation outlined in the technical standards specifically indicate the importance of the time frame, through which the evacuation should be performed. The developments in this area can be related to the reduction of the time frame, through which the evacuation can be performed. Such factor might be achieved through alternative building designs, specifically, non-domestic buildings, in which the technical parameters of the spaces would be optimized to expect worst-case scenarios.

The Requirements for the Disabled People

The application of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), when designing the safety requirement for disabled people, has the main purpose is not putting the disabled person at a disadvantage. The application of the DDA is concerned with all non-domestic buildings, including employment places, buildings for the provision of goods and services, and places of education. The requirements contain several points, specifically related to buildings’ utilization and access, which will be briefly overviewed in the following few paragraphs.

The first issue related to the requirement specified for disabled people is the access to buildings. The main aspects of the access are that they should be safe, unassisted, and convenient. One requirement conforming to the latter can be seen in maintaining a specific minimal width for corridors in the buildings, 1.8 m, so as to allow two wheelchairs to pass safely. Additionally, the same can be said about floor surfaces, whether sloping or plane, where they should permit easy manoeuvring, in the case of the latter, and providing level rest points, in the case of sloping surfaces. In both cases, these surfaces should have a level of traction that will minimize the possibility of slipping, and maintained wet and dry.

Other requirements for the disabled people are concerned with the utilization buildings, namely the vertical circulation between levels and storeys. The requirements set specific standards for putting an accessible stair between each level, the provision and the technical specifications of passenger lifts, the provision of an identifiable space for wheelchair users in areas with fixed seats, and the design of car parking spaces. It can be stated that the emphasis in these requirement is based on a general usage of non-domestic buildings.

In that regard, in the case of an emergency or an evacuation, a specific conflicts might arise, as even maintaining the minimum width for a corridor to allow the passage of two wheel chairs, might not prevent the cases where the panic might put disabled people in a disadvantage, e.g. manoeuvrability, changing direction, etc. Accordingly, it is specifically emphasized that escape routes should be free of obstacles, where lifts and escalators can be considered as one. The usage of accessible stairs in evacuation situations might be difficult. The developments in this area might include revising the guidelines regarding the ramps, used as a mean of vertical circulation in the building, in order to ensure that in worst-case scenarios people with disabilities will be able to safely reach a safe point during evacuation.

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