Research says elevators may be a safer option to stairs in a high-rise evacation

According to “Experts Reconsider Elevator as Fire Escape”, an article by Anthony M. DeStefano, elevators in skyscrapers may be used in future mass evacuations based on research by a special National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) panel that studied the evacuation of the World Trade Center towers on September 11, 2001.

“Don’t use elevators in fires is one of the most successful public education [safety] campaigns in history,” added Jason D. Averill, an expert on fire safety for NIST.  This idea brought about some of Emedco’s most successful signs in glow-in-the-dark and standard sign material – ‘In case of fire, do not use elevators, use stairways’ signsBut due to the events of Sept. 11 and taller buildings sprouting up all over the globe, elevators are being looked at as  safe evacuation option in mass evacuations, especially fires. Major national safety organizations, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), are preparing or proposing standards for the use of elevators in high-rise evacuations.

The elevator push comes after years of analysis of the Twin Towers showed how inadequate stairs were, said Edwin Galea, a professor at the University of Greenwich in England.  NFPA’s life safety code published in 2009 states elevators should be in “noncombustible hoistway” with fire resistant shafts separate from the building.

Currently there is no federal building code that includes elevators in an evacuation process so states and cities are coming up with their own requirements. For example, New York City requires all new high-rise construction to include impact-resistant fire stairs and stairwells must be spaced away from each other.  Also, protected/hardened elevator shafts and vestibules should be available where people can safely wait until it is their turn to evacuate.

It’s important to remember that the use of elevators is still being considered. Take the stairs in case of an emergency in most buildings.

The importance of glow in the dark material

Above are a series of photos showing a stairwells and an exit door in light and dark conditions. In each of these photos, you can clearly see the use of Emedco’s Glow-In-The-Dark Tapes and a couple Glow-In-The-Dark Signs.  The difference between the photos in the light and in the dark are striking – the Tapes are so bright, no other light is needed in the darkened stairwell.  During an evacuation, every second is crucial -by choosing products that glow in the dark, you’re making your exit routes safer for every person in your building.

Start preparing now for your next evacuation

The 6.9 earthquake this Sunday reminded of the need for a solid evacuation plan.  I live in an area that rarely feels an earthquake (I think there was a 3.0 when I was in seventh grade) so I’m no expert on earthquake protocol.  What I can tell you about is how important it is to have a safe evacuation assembly area for your employees/residents/visitors. The earthquake in Mexico-southern California occurred on Easter Sunday saving most business from being affected from an evacuation standpoint.  However, if it happened on a weekday and employees weren’t current in their emergency training, the outcome of this earthquake could have been extremely devastating.

Developing an effective, safe evacuation plan needs to happen before the emergency.  Here are some steps to get you started:

  1. Do your due diligence: Investigate your facility – mark exit routes, block off a spot in your parking lot for your evacuation assembly area, create an evacuation policy.
  2. Update your emergency equipment and marking products: Get what you don’t have! Refer to my blogs “Create a complete exit, fire & evacuation guidance system” and “Create a safe haven with Evacuation Assembly Area products” for essential products and tips.
  3. Put Evacuation Leads in place: Choose one individual from every department to be the Evacuation Lead for that department.  This person must complete your training and be ready to lead and keep track of his/her department in an emergency situation.
  4. Train the rest of your staff: Go over your policy with all employees in the building. Ensure they know evacuation routes and correct procedure when exiting the building and entering the evacuation assembly area.
  5. Practice! Choose days for drills and enforce your evacuation policy. Go one step further and block an exit door with a “fake fire”, forcing your employees to use their knowledge of other exit routes in your facility.
  6. Debrief after each drill: Learn from problems and mistakes, adjust your policy and procedures as needed.

The goal of every evacuation plan is to get all employees to the evacuation assembly area safely and quickly.  Follow these steps to get your business on the right track.  Bad situations don’t give notice – be ready for anything!

NFPA released new edition of NFPA 1600® available for free on nfpa.org

NFPA 1600® Standard on Disaster/Emergency Management and Business Continuity Programs

“NFPA 1600 establishes a common, high level set of criteria for disaster and emergency management and business continuity programs to develop, implement, assess, and maintain these programs. The programs address management, planning, prevention, mitigation, implementation, response, recovery, testing and improvement.”

A major difference between the 2010 version and the 2007 version is omission of one chapter: Program Elements, and the creation of new chapters: Planning, Implementation, Testing and Exercise, and Program Improvement.  The contents of 2007’s Program Elements chapter was broken down and added to these new chapters, then expanded upon.

Chapter 4 – Program Management, has been elaborated to create specific guidelines for individuals who are leaders for their company’s disaster and emergency plans. Leadership and commitment has been added to this chapter along with performance objectives, finance and administration, and records management.

Chapter 5 – Planning, includes planning process, risk assessment (carried over from the former chapter 5), business impact analysis, mitigation, and more.

Chapter 6 – Implementation, includes much of what was Chapter 5 in 2007 along with new additions: employee assistance and support, Emergency Operations Centers (EOCs), training and education.

Chapter 7 – Testing and Exercises reminds Emergency Leaders that practice makes perfect when it comes to implementing an evacuation plan.

Chapter 8 – Program Improvement has been added in order to recognize that emergency plans are “working” documents. As regulations and recommendations are updated by NFPA or there are changes in personnel at your facility, your emergency policy must be updated accordingly.   This chapter also calls for reviews after each incident to reevaluate your program and learn from lessons.

2010’s 1600 seems like a more thought-out version than the 2007 1600. Please make your safety officers aware of these updated changes.  Well-practiced emergency procedures keep employees safe from injury or even death – do not take these recommendations lightly.

Source: nfpa.org