Should we do More in our Fire Engineering Assessments to Address the Ageing Population and Disability in Emergency Evacuation

  • When a Fire Engineer formulates an Alternative Solution there needs to be consideration of the people who are likely to use a space. Depending on the building, occupants will be of various ages, have differing mental capacities, and may or may not have mobility issues. The Fire Engineer must therefore make a series of assumptions about the responsiveness of occupants and their movement capability. Furthermore, the level of assistance available to occupants will vary from building to building and with the fire safety management systems that are in place.
    The Building Code of Australia does not specifically define the term ‘disabled’ and provides limited guidance with respect to the evacuation of persons of reduced mobility in an emergency. There are some provisions, such as additional fire and smoke compartmentation, for higher risk occupancies in hospitals and aged-care facilities which rely heavily on the training and actions of staff.

    So do our Fire Engineering assessments and Alternative Solutions do enough to cater for the needs of an ageing population and disabled persons? How should we address the needs of these people now and into the future?
    This paper provides a comparison between the case for current alternative solutions providing sufficiently for the needs of an ageing population and the case against current alternative solutions doing enough and outlines a way forward into the future.

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