Dear All,
After the Fire accident which happened in Bangalore, I just thought to share some information on the safety measures which are suppose to be implemented in the buildings.

A stairway should be of sufficient width for the number of people who are likely to use it in an emergency and it should not normally be less than 1 metre wide. However, a narrower one may be adequate if you are sure that only a few people, who are familiar with the stairway, will use it.
Where more than one stairway is provided, you should assume that the widest one may be unusable as a result of the fire. This means that the remaining stairway(s) will need to provide a satisfactory escape route for everyone present.
There may be no need for you to discount the widest stairway where each stairway is reached through a protected lobby. Certain other compensatory features, such as sprinklers or smoke control systems, may also be considered.
Stairways should normally be protected by fire-resisting partitions and fire-resisting, self-closing doors (except toilet doors) and lead directly to a way out of the building. An unprotected stairway may, however, be suitable in workplaces of low or normal fire risk, provided that:
  • the stairway links no more than two floors and those floors are not linked to another floor by an unprotected stairway; and
  • it is additional to that required for escape purposes; and
  • no escape route from a dead-end situation on an upper floor passes the access to such a stairway.
People should not have to pass through a protected stairway to reach an alternative stairway. Where this cannot be achieved, a stairway may be by-passed, for instance by using doors connecting adjacent rooms. In such situations the doors should be kept free from obstruction and available for use at all times.
A single stairway may be suitable for means of escape in workplaces of low or normal fire risk, provided that people on each floor can reach it within the appropriate travel time (see details of distances earlier in this section). It also needs to:
  • be constructed as a protected stairway and serve no more than three floors above, or one floor below, ground level;
  • be accessed, other than at the top floor, by means of a protected lobby or protected corridor;
  • be of sufficient width to accommodate the number of people who may need to use it in an emergency; and
  • lead direct to open air.
There is no need for you to provide protected lobbies where the workplace is of low fire risk. This also applies to workplaces of normal fire risk, provided that either an automatic fire detection system or sprinklers linked directly into the fire alarm system are installed in the rooms or areas leading directly onto the protected stairway.
In small workplaces of low or normal fire risk, unprotected stairways (including a single stairway) may be satisfactory as a means of escape, provided that:
  • the stairway provides access between the ground and first floor and/or ground floor and basement only, and an exit can be reached from any part of those floors within the escape times given for single escape routes earlier in this section; and
  • access to the stairway is clearly visible from any part of the floor it serves and it exits not more than 6 metres from a storey exit leading direct to open air at ground level.
Where an external stairway is provided, any door or window (other than toilet windows) opening onto the stairway, or within 1.8 metres horizontally or 9 metres vertically of it, should be fire-resisting. Windows should be unopenable and doors should be self-closing. In exceptional circumstances, a small number of unprotected, openable windows may be allowed, provided that the rooms containing them are separated from the rest of the building by fire-resisting construction and the external stairway is not the only one from the upper storeys.
Accommodation Stairways:
Your workplace may have stairways that are not needed as part of the formal means of escape. These stairways are known as accommodation stairs and will not need to be protected, provided that:
  • they do not serve protected corridors;
  • they do not link more than two floors; and
  • people do not have to move towards the head of an unprotected stairway to make their escape.
Means of escape for use by staff:
The features listed below are not normally acceptable as a means of escape for members of the public as they are not conventional escape routes. However, they may, in certain circumstances, be used by a small number of staff if they are trained to do so or use the exit during their normal work activity:
  • revolving doors (except those specifically designed for escape purposes);
  • portable, foldaway, vertical-raking or throw-out ladders;
  • window exits;
  • wicket doors and gates;
  • wall and floor hatches; and
  • rolling shutters and folding, sliding or up-and-over doors.
Items prohibited on an escape route:
You should make sure that items which pose a potential fire hazard or those which could cause an obstruction are not located in corridors or stairways intended for use as a means of escape. In particular, the following items should not be located in protected routes, or in a corridor and stairwell which serves as the sole means of escape from the workplace, or part of it:

  • portable heaters of any type;
  • heaters which have unprotected naked flames or radiant bars;
  • fixed heaters using a gas supply cylinder, where the cylinder is within the escape route;
  • oil-fuelled heaters or boilers;
  • cooking appliances;
  • upholstered furniture;
  • coat racks;
  • temporarily stored items including items in transit, eg furniture, beds, laundry, waste bins etc;
  • lighting using naked flames;
  • gas boilers, pipes, meters or other fittings (except those permitted in the standards supporting the building regulations and installed in accordance with the 'Gas Safety Regulations');
  • gaming and/or vending machines; and
  • electrical equipment (other than normal lighting, emergency escape lighting, fire alarm systems, or equipment associated with a security system), eg photocopiers.
Escape Doors:
Doors people have to pass through in order to escape from the workplace should open in the direction of travel where:
  • more than 50 people may have to use the door;
  • the door is at or near the foot of a stairway;
  • the door serves a high-fire-risk area or
  • the door is on an exit route from a building used for public assembly, such as a place of public entertainment, a conference center or exhibition hall.
You should make sure that people escaping can open any door on an escape route easily and immediately, without the use of a key. All outward opening doors used for means of escape, which have to be kept fastened while people are in the building, should be fitted with a single form of release device such as a panic latch, a panic bolt, or a push pad.
Where a door needs to be fastened by a security device, it should be the only fastening on the door and you will have to make sure that all your staff knows how it works. Such devices are not normally suitable for use by members of the public. You should display a notice explaining the method of operation and, if necessary, provide a suitable tool so that the device can be operated safely.
Fire Doors:
Where fire doors are provided they should be fitted with effective self-closing devices and labelled 'Fire Door - Keep Shut'. Fire doors to cupboards and service ducts need not be self-closing, provided they are kept locked and labelled 'Fire Door - Keep Locked Shut'.
Self-closing fire doors may be held open by automatic door release mechanisms which are either:
  • connected into a manually operated electrical fire alarm system incorporating automatic smoke detectors in the vicinity of the door; or
  • actuated by independent smoke detectors (not domestic smoke alarms) on each side of the door.
Where such mechanisms are provided, it should be possible to release them manually. The doors should be automatically closed by:
  • the actuation of a smoke-sensitive device on either side of the door;
  • a power failure to the door release mechanism or smoke-sensitive devices; or
  • the actuation of a fire warning system linked to the door release mechanisms or a fault in that system.
Such fire doors should be labelled with the words 'Automatic Fire Door - Keep Clear'. Where possible, automatic fire doors should be closed at night and have an additional sign to this effect.
Other automatic devices are available which operate on different principles - you should consult your local fire authority before installing them.

From India, Bangalore
Thank You Mahesh, Is there a norm which makes it mandatory for having a minimum number of stairways In some of the older constructions only one stairway is available Anil
From India, Mumbai

Dear Anil,
Normally, a workplace must have at least two exit routes to permit prompt evacuation of employees and other building occupants during an emergency. More than two exits are required, however, if the number of employees, size of the building, or arrangement of the workplace will not allow employees to evacuate safely. Exit routes must be located as far away as practical from each other in case one is blocked by fire or smoke.
Exception: If the number of employees, the size of the building, its occupancy, or the arrangement of the workplace allows all employees to evacuate safely during an emergency, one exit route is permitted.

From India, Bangalore

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