People of determination evacuating from High Rise Buildings

For older high rise building with evacuation stairways I have come across an issue that I feel should be raised.

I have seen many that have a refuge area for disabled people to wait for evacuation within these stairways as they are fire protected, many have evacuation chairs and communications systems.

The problem I have is many do not have ‘Stairwell Pressurisation Systems’ and when the stairway connects many floors and during an evacuation a serious problem can occur.

During a fire and when there is smoke around people open the stairways doors to exit the building and in some cases keep it open while a group of people exit, this can allow smoke to be drawn into the stairway and upwards and can be increased If there is a fire and smoke on many floors, resulting in a lot of smoke drawn in to the stairway and can cause major problems for people waiting at refuge points.

I believe it is not unreasonable to have smoke hoods available either directly to the disabled person or available in the refuge and this should also allow for two people to assist with the evacuation, so a minimum of three at any refuge point. If the building is a hotel then all accessible rooms should have the smoke hoods as well.

It is important to consider that more than one person maybe at a refuge point and this can compact the evacuation procedure and time scale to get assistance and move people out of danger. this time delay is the high-risk factor of smoke being drawn into the stairway and affecting people either using this escape route or waiting in the refuge.

I encourage all independent disable people who travel a lot to have two smoke hoods with them, either whiles travelling (planes are a good example when one would be needed as disabled people are often the last to be evacuated) or to have them in your room and if you are evacuated you have one for yourself and the person assisting your evacuation.

Specialist hoods to protect people from toxic smoke as they are rescued from burning buildings have been introduced by Fire and Rescue services.

The lightweight hoods provide up to 15 minutes’ protection and could drastically reduce the number who are overcome by fumes, saving more lives. They block out four deadly gases — carbon monoxide, hydrogen cyanide, hydrogen chloride and acrolein

A filter using the chemical compound hopcalite, similar to those that can be found in firefighters’ breathing apparatus, purifies the air. This allows oxygen to be taken in while the filter system blocks out the most harmful fumes.

Without a shadow of a doubt this will help the public and prevent them absorbing the gases and improve chances of saving lives. Smoke inhalation is the leading cause of death in fires. It has been reported it causes between an estimated 50 and 80 per cent of fire deaths.

It is simple, disabled people are often the most vulnerable people and are high risk of injury during high rise building evacuation; Fire escape hoods will enable firefighters to rescue people from fires whose escape route is blocked by an unbreathable atmosphere. Don’t think twice to put it on

In my experience, during a fire station drill where crew members train amid thick plumes of artificial smoke, when a firefighter produces a fluorescent hood from a pouch on his belt and tells me to put it on -like a Halloween mask-, I do not think twice.

The mask creates a vacuum over the nose and mouth that protects from killer gases for 15 minutes. As I am led outside the room into a series of narrow hallways the visibility is almost zero. Without the mask, the short stumble to safety could have fatal consequences but with it fixed to my face, the light at the end of the tunnel just leads to fresh air.

I have developed a new evacuation aid with smoke hoods, for more details and information please contact us.