Safe Evacuation for all - Fact or Fantasy? Past Experiences, current Understanding and future challenges

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Statistics show that significant proportions of our global populations have a disability. Demographically we are an ageing and an increasingly obese society which, with increased accessibility, means that buildings are likely to be frequented by an ever increasing proportion of persons with reduced mobility. There is therefore a need to ensure that we can provide an accessible means of egress and a safe evacuation for all. Design guidance related to exit widths varies internationally but in the main has its origins in studies conducted with populations who were able bodied and fit. Furthermore the relationships between speed/density/flow used in hand calculations and computer models have been recognised as being outdated and not necessarily reflective of society today. This paper considers the evacuation of mixed ability populations in the context of increasing accessibility and changing demographics, reviews the basis for current design guidance and explores the design options for persons with reduced mobility. The current understanding of the evacuation capabilities of persons with reduced mobility is critically assessed and lessons from real evacuation experiences and other studies of mixed ability populations are drawn. In so doing, the sufficiency of current design guidance and challenges associated with implementing current approaches are considered and gaps in understanding and future research needs identified.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)28-40
JournalFire Safety Journal
Issue number0
Early online date10 May 2017
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 31 Jul 2017


  • disability
  • mobility impairment
  • evacuation
  • refuge
  • lifts/elevators
  • escape route design


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