Technology can help people in high-risk evacuations

Issue 2 2020 Fire & Safety

The primary goal in any building evacuation is the protection of people and while the nature of threats to occupants within buildings have changed, safety practices have not kept pace, leading to tragic consequences.

Research indicates that more than 70% of people will not notice a building’s conventional exit signs in an emergency[1], making it essential for architects and building managers to consider the safest evacuation strategies for commercial, residential and academic buildings.

Conventional exit signs are unable to adjust their guidance or direction according to changing circumstances or real-time dangers such as blocked exit routes. This is a potentially significant weakness given the diversification of threats facing complex buildings and the ways in which these threats can escalate.

Technology is crucial

The nature of risk in all modern buildings has inexorably changed. Fortunately, technology has advanced to offer fire prevention devices and adaptive evacuation methods that can mitigate the consequences of an incident, or prevent it happening altogether.

To address the shortcomings of static signage, new forms of escape guidance systems available, improving the visual recognition of exit routes and providing greater flexibility in the routing of building occupants. Adaptive exit lighting and dynamic exit signage can direct occupants to an alternative exit point, and adaptive systems enable continuous adjustments of exit route guidance in line with the location or nature of the hazard.

If these installations – preventative or reactive – had been installed in more buildings, a number of incidents reported in the last few years could certainly have been avoided or better managed. There is no one-size fits all approach when it comes to building safety, but these new technologies can complement traditional evacuation best practises to ensure people in both older and newer buildings are protected against the diverse threats they face in the built environment.


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