Having an emergency plan in place during a high-rise evacuation could be critical to saving lives. A “high-rise” is defined as a structure in which the highest occupied floor is greater than 75 feet above the ground floor. There are hundreds of high-rise buildings spread across North America, housing thousands of offices and workers, and therefore having a well-prepared high-rise evacuation plan is vital to preventing disaster in an emergency situation.

Stairwell Safety

During an emergency situation occurring in a high-rise building, such as a fire or earthquake, elevators could be rendered useless, and it is for this reason that occupants should always use a stairwell during an evacuation. Without a proper evacuation plan, stairwells can become overcrowded, causing delays and putting people’s safety in jeopardy. When designing an evacuation plan, it is important to make sure that the building stairwell areas never become obstructed. Also, points for accessing the staircase need to be well marked, so that occupants can easily find their way to the stairs.

Another important consideration is making sure that each step of the stairwell is properly marked using high-contrast stair nosing or features a glow-in-the-dark surface to improve visibility. When disaster strikes, there’s a high probability of losing power in the building, which means you’re also losing artificial lighting. Though most stairwells have emergency flood lights in place, installing these highly-visible treads and nosings ensure the well-being of all building occupants during an evacuation.

Evacuation Options for Those with Disabilities

Millions of people suffer from some disability, some requiring specific accommodations, and this must be taken into consideration when preparing high-rise evacuation procedures. While disabilities, such as deafness, blindness, and physical handicaps do present different evacuation needs, there are general preparations that can aid the disabled during an emergency.

For instance, having evacuation signs that include Braille can help those that suffer from blindness find their way to the exit. Also, audible alarms, particularly those with voice commands, can also help direct people to safety. Disabilities that create mobility issues also need to be considered. If a person requires a wheelchair, then the elevator should be seen as a means of evacuation. In the case that elevators are not an option, assistance from others may be required to ensure the individual gets to safety.

What to do When You Have Left the Building

Once you have vacated the high-rise structure, it is important to find a safe location away from the building. There may already be emergency responders on the scene, and if so, follow any instructions they provide. If you or anyone becomes injured, immediately notify the proper authorities. Also, provide emergency crews with any information that may be relevant to the evacuation. Always remain calm and obey instructions, to prevent hindering rescue operations.

While there are myriad circumstances to consider when preparing procedures for high-rise evacuation, there are some simple steps that can make an evacuation go more smoothly. Always keep stairwells clear of any obstructions, have warning alarms in place, and take extra measures to ensure that the disabled have been escorted to safety. Having a well-planned strategy to clear the building of occupants in the event of an emergency could save countless lives, in addition to helping responders treat victims more efficiently.

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