Tall buildings are not designed for fast and easy evacuation. By their nature, the stairwells and elevator shafts are narrow. When mass evacuation of a tall building is necessary, means of exit typically become clogged with people. Learning how to evacuate a high-rise properly is vital for fire safety in a tall building. Fortunately, there are several new evacuation strategies in research and in practice today– some of them may surprise you.
New Strategies for Evacuating Tall Buildings
Since people tend to panic in an emergency situation, everyone from engineers to psychologists are researching the best methods for evacuating tall buildings. Recently, they uncovered a strategy that up until now was considered unthinkable: using elevators to evacuate.
Elevators were the path to safety for about 3,000 people in the south tower during the 9/11 attacks in the United States. This has prompted researchers to
take pause and consider the value of elevators during fire and disaster evacuation. The NFPA has even made changes to their code to allow for elevator use before first responders arrive on the scene. There are even fire-only elevators being designed and possibly implemented in building design in the near future.
When It’s Safer To Stay Put
When you do not know what to do in the event of a fire, the
best option may be to stay put
and wait. Call for help if you can and follow the instructions of any first responders. Provide the fire department with information about where you are
located if smoke or fire prevents you from evacuating.
You may have more time to evacuate than you realize. Buildings are generally required to have 2 to 4 hour firewalls protecting their stairwells. Many
buildings also have fire-resistant floors and walls that partition the fire to the section it begins in. This allows the occupants to move safely to
another section of the building until leaving the building entirely is possible. Many hospitals and nursing homes are constructed to contain a fire in this
What Typically Happens In A Tall Building Evacuation
Any large building, and especially a high-rise, should be evacuated in sections. This prevents crowding in the stairwells. Since high-rise buildings have
multiple staircases, the occupants should evacuate via particular stairways to assigned floors. Most evacuation plans move people to a floor easy to reach
but well below the fire. For example, if there is a fire on floor 25 and you are on floor 23, you may be moved to floor 18 where you will wait for further
An announcement with these instructions is usually made following the fire alarm in a tall building. In case an announcement isn’t possible, all occupants
should be aware of the steps in their building’s fire safety plan. Every building should have at least two plans for evacuation in the event of an
How You Can Prepare For An Evacuation In Your Building
The first step is to understand the basics of escape planning. Before you follow instructions to leave the building, you will have to evacuate the room in
which you’re located. You should know two ways to escape each room in the event of a fire. If smoke is present, both routes must allow you to stay low and leave the room beneath the accumulating smoke.
The next step is to practice how you would respond in case of an emergency. Practice is important since it is
easier to recall a practiced plan than troubleshoot the situation in a moment of panic. Everyone in the building should practice moving low under smoke to
the nearest, safest exit.
Stay Safe While Evacuating A Tall Building
The age-old problem of how to escape a fire is finding new answers in current research. Keep an eye out for new methods of building evacuation, like
fire-only safety elevators installed in high rises. In the meantime, know what is recommended for your building.
Being aware that you can stay put or use the elevator during certain points of an emergency is critical, just know when these strategies are appropriate.
Familiarize yourself with your building’s evacuation plan, how you will be expected to leave, and where you should head in the case of a fire. Be sure to
practice your evacuation plan so you and your co-workers can be prepared should disaster strike.