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Fire Evacuations: How to Escape a Fire

Don't depend solely on one evacuation route.

Don't depend solely on one evacuation route.

Part 3 in a Series

When it comes to fire, time is the biggest enemy. In less than 30 seconds, a small flame can turn into a major fire filling a building with thick black smoke, toxic superheated gases and ominous flames. Every second counts.

Each year, more than 3,500 Americans die and 20,000 are injured in fires. Many of these deaths and injuries result from failed emergency escape attempts. In our continuing series about fire safety, we will focus on the best practices for making sure evacuation routes are plentiful, accessible and memorable.


Multiple Routes

One surefire way to get trapped by flames is to depend solely on one evacuation route. When fire strikes, if the escape is blocked by fire or smoke, you will need another way out. So make sure all of your property evacuation plans allow for more than one means of escape.

Up to Code

  • See to it that your properties are up to code regarding building evacuation. For older properties, fire escapes should remain in good working condition.
  • According to the National Fire Protection Association, fire escape stairs should be made from steel or other approved non-combustible material.
  • Stairs should be designed to support the dead load of the stair system plus a live load of at least 100 pounds per square foot.
  • Since exterior fire escape stairs are not permitted on newer buildings, make sure interior staircases are easily accessible and clearly marked. If you live or work in a low-rise structure (1-3 stories) consider portable fire escape ladders as a secondary means of escape.


Accommodate Individuals with Disabilities

  • While many newer buildings are constructed as “accessible” to allow people with disabilities barrier-free access, it is important to make sure that your evacuation training practices evacuating people with disabilities to ensure everyone knows what to do during emergencies.
  • Clients of the Allied Universal Training System have access to helpful evacuation resources including a Guide for Emergency Evacuation Planning Guide for People with Disabilities. The guide includes a Personal Emergency Evacuation Planning Checklist as well as information about building evacuation plans for people with mobility, visual, hearing, speech and cognitive impairments.

Provide Ample Egress

  • This is an important consideration not only during construction but on a regular basis. Tenants can unintentionally block passageways with boxes or overflow from their suites. So take steps to constantly monitor escape routes.



  • They say practice makes perfect. This is especially true when it comes to emergency evacuations.
  • Review escape routes frequently.
  • Practice not only in the middle of the day in full sun but also at night, to train tenants how to evacuate under cover of darkness.


  • Make sure that evacuation routes are clearly marked so locations become second nature.
  • For more tips about conducting fire drills, see our recent post, Practice Makes Safety.

Visit us again next week for the next post in our series about fire safety and prevention. When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives.  For the latest emergency management training for property owners and managers, contact Allied Universal, Inc. Our new Version 2.0 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. Visit for more information and remember to BE SAFE.

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