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Fire in a high-rise building: Is it safe to ride the elevator?

Monday, February 28th, 2011
People running toward an exit

Is it safe to use an elevator to exit in emergencies?

The 9/11 disasters prompted facility managers and emergency management professionals to discuss the use of elevators for egress in cases of fire-related emergencies. Among other things, the terrorist attacks shed light on the fact that, for optimum safety, certain emergencies require evacuation of all floors simultaneously instead of individually.

While not yet mainstream, research and discussion is beginning to challenge long-held beliefs. Some high-rise buildings, such as the 1,149-foot Stratosphere Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, utilize evacuation elevators due to the height of the building, which makes emergency stairway exits implausible.

So is change coming? Who will ultimately decide? Elevator use in buildings is largely managed by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, who review and suggest changes for elevator codes that dictate standards for buildings throughout the country.

Challenges to implementation of evacuation elevators:

  • Changing ingrained procedures will be a challenge. Building occupants have long been told to “take the stairs during a fire.” Adapting tenants to the safety and expediency of elevator evacuation might be difficult. Intensive in-person training will need to be executed and assurances given about the newfound benefits of using elevators for speedier emergency exits.
  • Handling water from sprinklers is an engineering hurdle. If occupants need to escape quickly during a fire, it’s very likely the sprinklers will be on during evacuation. So operations and communications equipment in evacuation elevators need to be protected from potential water damage.
  • Smoke inhalation is the biggest health danger during a fire. So Smoke Control Systems should be installed, maintained and regularly inspected in elevator areas.
  • Other potential hazards, such as earthquakes causing fires, mean evacuation elevators need to be structurally reinforced.

If tenants plan to use evacuation elevators but firefighters on the ground recall all elevators to the lobby, precious time could be wasted. Working with fire department staff prevents this type of mis-communication. One way the Allied Universal Training System improves emergency communication between local fire departments and our clients is via the building-specific, automatic notifications and updates we send to fire departments with real-time information relative to Special Assistance, Floor Wardens and Fire Safety Directors. Thanks to this service, emergency personnel are well-equipped to provide assistance and direction when they arrive on scene.

Installation of dedicated emergency egress elevators is not usually valuable unless the elevators themselves are protected from fire. New codes are emerging which have been designed to protect evacuation elevators with fireproof padding and other structural safeguards. Dedicated emergency power supplies are also needed to ensure elevator occupants are not left stranded between floors during emergencies.

Widespread requirements for evacuation elevators might be on the horizon. So it’s important to stay ahead of the learning curve. Used correctly, they offer the ultimate promise of a higher degree of safety for those who work and live in high-rise structures. As always, be sure you review the latest national and local codes as they relate to fire-related procedures. It’s important to have an integrated approach to fire safety which includes sprinklers, alarms and safe evacuation routes.

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives.  For the latest emergency management training for facility/building 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 rjwestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.

Allied Universal, Inc. Among First to Receive BIF Certification

Monday, September 27th, 2010
Allied Universal, Inc. was one of the first to receive BIF Certification.

Allied Universal, Inc. was one of the first to receive BIF Certification.

In the city of Los Angeles, a new fire life safety training code LAMC 57.33.19 requires all high-rise building owners to complete building-specific diagrams of elevators, stairwells, typical floor plans, building-specific information sheets as well as standpipe and risers and must make the information available for the LAFD to access online. One of the first two companies to receive this new certification, Allied Universal, Inc. stands poised to be able to create code-compliance forms for your high-rise building located anywhere in the country, for a nominal fee.

Although Los Angeles is the first city to institute the certificate-requirement, the requisite will eventually be nationwide. At the forefront is Allied Universal Inc., whose mission is to save lives through training with the motto, “BE SAFE.” Our interactive, building-specific e-learning training system motivates and rewards tenants instantly! It’s a convenient and affordable solution to all of the training needs of your residential and commercial building(s).

The designation equips Allied Universal, Inc. to provide Fire Life Safety Systems information which can be referenced from fire department control rooms, onboard computers, fire station desktops and compatible handheld devices. Having ready-access to building-inventory forms is crucial for emergency personnel who benefit from prior knowledge of potential entries and exits so they can make informed decisions about on-site fire life safety strategies.

“We are pleased to announce our BIF Certification since it shows that we are qualified to produce documentation about all of the information unique to each building,” said Allied Universal, Inc. CEO and President Robert Westmore, “The BIF forms we prepare will not only benefit fire departments who can check stats while en route to any high-rise emergency, but will also ultimately help property owners and managers protect their real estate investments.”

The BIF Cert will benefit companies as well as the fire department, which is why Allied Universal, Inc. is leading the way by offering to prepare structure Inventory Forms for any high-rise structure (which is defined as any building that is 75 feet or higher.) Don’t wait until your city requires your compliance. Contact us today and we’ll take care of everything.

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact Allied Universal, Inc. And in the meantime, BE SAFE.

Approaching the Eight Year Anniversary of 9/11

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

Blog Twin Towers Pic

Thousands of lives and both of the Twin Towers were lost on the now infamous day of September 11, 2001. The disaster gave Americans an uninvited lesson about the necessity of developing a comprehensive high-rise evacuation plan. It also shed light on the fact that, to be effective, disaster preparedness plans have to be taught to the people most likely to need them…all of the occupants in a building.

Fire Life Safety

One of the unavoidable risks of working or living in a high-rise building is fire. According to NFPA, the National Fire Protection Association, the following factors are unique to training for fire safety in high-rise buildings.

High-rise

  • The multiple floors of a high-rise building create the cumulative effect of requiring great numbers of persons to travel great vertical distances on stairs in order to evacuate the building.
  • The physical demands of evacuation made on occupants often exceed the capabilities of many.
  • The process of evacuating some of the largest high-rise buildings in the world may take upwards of two hours.
  • The fire and life safety systems installed in high-rise buildings today, including automatic fire sprinkler protection, are designed to control a fire and therefore lessen the need to totally evacuate all occupants.
  • Typically, the fire floor and the floors immediately above and below the fire will be evacuated. (Depending on the city where you live, there could be as many as five to seven floors within the building.)

Also according to NFPA, the key elements of emergency preparedness include:

  • Early warning (typically through an alarm or voice communication system)
  • Adequate means of egress (exit routes)
  • Occupant familiarity with the plan through knowledge and practice.

The Allied Universal Training System provides unlimited access to building-specific, web-based emergency preparedness education to the folks who need it most. Using an educational, entertaining and user-friendly format, the system has been approved by all of the major fired departments across the United States. It was most recently recognized and approved by the Los Angeles Fire Department as one of the first approved online training systems to comply with the newly implemented LAMC 57.33.19 high-rise fire code. Simply stated, the system saves lives.

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