Archive for May, 2016

Fire Evacuation Use of Lifts/Elevators, Escalators & Travellators !!

2016-05-16:  Media coverage of the Brussels Hive Attack, on 22 March 2016 … and, more recently, my own experience travelling in the Rome Metro, where the lines have been constructed deep in the ground to avoid the city’s vast and rich archaeological heritage … made me seriously wonder about how vulnerable users of the built environment can possibly cope in emergencies.

Escalators (moving stairs) and Travellators (horizontal moving walkways) are very common in public buildings.  They greatly facilitate convenient and comfortable circulation for everybody … especially in large, extensive and complex building types.  Escalators are absolutely essential in metro environments, both for access and egress.

Escalators which are static … which don’t move, for one reason or another … are dangerous.  The rise of steps in the main part of the escalator is usually very high, too high for any type of public building … and at the top and bottom of the escalator, the step rise varies dramatically … which is a recipe for trips and falls, particularly in any sort of emergency.

AND … we know that during a fire emergency in a building, many people will attempt to evacuate that building by re-tracing their route of entry … whatever the hazard and wherever it is located.

Too many Standards and Guideline Documents take the easy option … and recommend that lifts/elevators, escalators and travellators should all be shut down during emergencies, and their use prevented.  For the moment, I am thinking of just two examples:

  • European Standard EN 115: Safety of Escalators and Moving Walks – Part 1: Construction and Installation.  2008-05-29, including Amendment 1 2010-02-23.
  • Guidelines for the Safe Operation of Escalators and Moving Walks, published by the Safety Assessment Federation (GB), in consultation with the British Health & Safety Executive.  Issue 1, 2011-05-24.

These Recommendations … this Guidance, or Advice, or Whatever … show absolutely no consideration for the Safe Evacuation of People With Activity Limitations (2001 WHO ICF) in an Emergency.

These Recommendations … this Guidance, or Advice, or Whatever … are WRONG !

Subject to some simple requirements, e.g. a separate fire-protected electrical supply in each case, and appropriate management and fire service control, etc … Lifts/Elevators, Escalators and Travellators should all be available for use by people evacuating a building/facility during an emergency … and for use by firefighters accessing that same building/facility.

Building Designers, Fire Services & Standards Organizations … please take careful note !!

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U.S. Implementation of NIST’s 9-11 WTC Recommendations ?!?!

2016-05-05:  A Mickey Mouse Effort would be a polite way of describing the long drawn-out and tortuous process of implementing NIST’s Recommendations in the United States.  A better description might be … FUBAR !

15 Years After the 2001 WTC 9-11 Attacks in New York City … absolutely nothing has been done concerning the implementation of a significant number of Recommendations … other Recommendations have been only partially implemented, with many being limited to application in buildings over 128m high (420 feet in ye olde silly imperial units of measure), or else buildings over 22.86m high (75 feet) which have an occupant load exceeding 5,000 people or are essential facilities, e.g. hospitals.  And believe it or not, some implementing measures are still being challenged and they may yet be reversed in the years ahead.  Forget about discussing the already narrow Fire Safety Objectives in building codes/regulations, or Protecting Society, etc., etc.  In essence, it has all come down to that ‘durty’ four letter word: COST !

But read this 2011 Status Report for yourselves.  I have kept in touch with the current situation over there.

NIST’s WTC 9-11 Recommendations Status Report (2011-08-08) – PDF File, 330 Kb

Why should this matter ?

In 2005 & 2008, the U.S. National Institute of Standards & Technology issued a series of very important [ critical ] Recommendations on badly needed revisions to the Design – Construction – Management – Firefighting Procedures for Very High/Tall Buildings, High-Risk Buildings, Iconic Buildings, and Innovatively Designed Buildings.  Many, if not all, of these Recommendations were, and remain, just as valid and just as necessary in the case of other building types … whatever their height.

A lot of effort was expended here, a few years ago, on a detailed examination of the NIST Recommendations.  In one respect, the Recommendations have become dated and obsolete.  The recent 2016 Brussels and 2015 Paris Hive Attacks have altered how we must categorize and deal with buildings of ‘high-risk’.  From the start, however, the disability-related Recommendations only concerned mobility impaired building occupants … a serious flaw.

NIST does not have the legal authority to implement its own Recommendations within the United States.  However, implementation by the Model Code (e.g. IBC & NFPA) Organizations has been brutally slow and entirely inadequate.

And … it is very noticeable how so many other countries around the world are continuing  to completely ignore NIST’s Recommendations.  9-11 never happened !

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