Ensuring ‘means of escape’ from fire is adequate is a requirement of UK fire safety legislation. Proper means of escape should ensure that anyone discovering a fire in a building can safely turn away from the fire and walk to a place of safety outside without help from others.
The main focus is the construction of the building and more particularly the escape route. Once the fire-resisting construction is up to scratch then it requires supporting services such as fire detection, directional safety-signs and emergency lighting.
Building regulations provide masses of guidelines and requirements for fire-resistant escape routes. The guide relevant to fire safety is ‘Approved Document B’ a copy of which you can download from our free resources page.
Building control has the responsibility to ensure all new buildings meet fire-safety standards and also any existing buildings that are materially altered.
The ideal means-of-escape is where there is more than one exit route to take in the event of a fire. The theory is that it is highly unlikely that, in the early stages, a fire has affected two routes simultaneously.
Ensuring that means-of-escape are adequate involves consideration of travel distances involved, total time required to affect an evacuation, the number of occupants in a building, that exits are the correct width and that there are enough exits.
Although there are guidelines for all these factors planning is not straightforward as the requirements alter dependant upon such things as the type of work undertaken in the building, the type of occupants etc. Means-of-escape should be addressed in your fire-risk assessment.
In buildings that can’t provide multiple exit routes, and have constructions that encompass single staircases or dead-end corridors, then other measures are imposed. Such buildings may require enhanced compartmentation, fire doors and alarms on the escape route.
Any alterations to a building that make changes to the means-of-escape should be reported to building control. There are many common errors that happen following building work such as: creating a room within a room, using materials that promote fire-spread on the escape route and making holes through walls or stairs without repairing them with fire-retardant materials.