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How to Mitigate the Fire Safety Challenges for High-Rise Buildings

Posted on: July 23, 2021

Edge of high-rise building with exterior stairs.

People living or working in high-rise buildings must be prepared to handle a fire event safely. High-rise buildings present unique fire safety risks that other residential and commercial spaces do not. It’s critical not only to understand the fire safety features present in your high-rise building but also the prevention methods you can put in place to mitigate fire safety challenges before they escalate to a full-scale event.

Fire Safety & Prevention Tips for High-Rise Buildings

Before a fire event takes place, it’s important to understand the safety features in your high-rise building and be familiar with the safety plans in place to help protect building occupants. Residents or workers in high-rise buildings should: 

  • Know the plan: Be sure to familiarize yourself with the building’s evacuation plan. This plan should have complete instructions for residents or workers to follow in the event of a fire. Evacuation plans should be posted prominently where building occupants can clearly see them. Additionally, building management should hold a fire drill at least once annually (more if your local municipalities require it).
  • Practice fire safety: Practicing good fire safety starts with knowing all the exits and egresses in your high-rise building. If using an escape planning grid, mark these areas on the plan, so you’re always prepared with a backup escape route in the event a fire blocks a stairway or exit.  
  • Never use elevators: It’s extremely dangerous to use an elevator during a fire event. Instead, use the stairs as part of your escape plan. If you, a family member, or a coworker has mobility impairments, be sure you have a plan ready for how you will transport them to safety in the event of a fire emergency.
  • Stay below smoke: According to the National Fire Protection Association, most fire deaths are the result of smoke inhalation rather than burns. For this reason, it’s imperative that you stay low to avoid inhaling any smoke during a fire event. If all stairwells are filled with smoke during an evacuation, wait in your office or apartment building until the firefighters arrive to assist.
  • Keep yourself sealed: When there’s too much smoke to evacuate safely, call the fire department to report your precise location in the building. If possible, gather in a room close to a window and wait for the firefighters to arrive. Be sure to keep all doors between you and the fire event closed and use duct tape or towels to seal the door and air vents to prevent smoke from seeping into the room.
  • Remain at a window: Open the windows if you can at the top and bottom to allow fresh air into the room. Don’t break the window! If smoke enters the room after breaking a window, you won’t be able to protect yourself and could increase your risk for smoke inhalation poisoning.
  • Signal the firefighters: Using a flashlight, signal your location to the firefighters below so they can get to you more quickly.

By understanding and practicing these tips, you can help decrease your safety risk during a fire event in a high-rise building. 

Fire Safety Systems to Install in High-Rise Buildings

In addition to a clear evacuation plan, high-rise buildings should be equipped with specific fire safety systems to ensure clear communication and further mitigate risk during a fire event. These fire safety systems include: 

  • Fire sprinkler systemsMost high-rise buildings are required to have fire sprinkler systems in place due to the unique nature of their construction. These sprinkler systems help save lives and limit the amount of fire damage caused to the property itself. Fire sprinkler systems should be inspected and well-maintained in order to remain in compliance with fire safety codes.
  • Fire alarm systems: Modern fire alarm systems have become more sophisticated, offering voice communication to assist during the evacuation process. These fire alarm systems are essential for alerting building occupants throughout the high-rise structure. Especially for those who are on higher floors, it’s imperative that they receive the proper warning about any fire risk present within the building so they have ample time to evacuate.
  • Fire extinguishers: Strategically placing fire extinguishers around the high-rise building can help occupants reach safety more easily. Armed with a fire extinguisher, building occupants can suppress flames and forge a path to safety that otherwise would not have been possible.

High-rise building managers must ensure that their properties have the fire safety systems necessary for helping occupants reach safety as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Evacuating a High-Rise Building During a Fire Event

Depending on the type of fire safety systems the high-rise building has in place, the evacuation plan may vary. In general, high-rise building occupants should practice the following during evacuation: 

  • Leave the area as quickly and orderly as possible and go to the nearest fire-free/smoke-free stairwell
  • Listen carefully for any instructions that may come over the fire alarm system’s voice communication
  • Remain as low as possible to prevent smoke inhalation
  • Test doors for heat before opening them by placing the back of your hand against the door
  • Use stairs, never elevators, when attempting to reach the building’s exit
  • Report to the designated evacuation area
  • Refrain from reentering the building until instructed by your fire safety professionals

It’s important to remain calm while evacuating from the high-rise building. Panicking and quick movements could cause you to slip, fall, and become seriously injured — especially if fire sprinkler systems have caused the floors in your building to become slick. Know the plan, stick to it, and stay levelheaded to reach safety.

Performance Systems Integration for Your Fire Safety Needs!

As a high-rise building property manager, you must have the property evacuation plan and fire safety systems in place to protect your building occupants. At Performance Systems Integration, our fire safety experts have the systems and solutions you need to prevent catastrophic fire damage in your building. Allow our team to help outfit your high-rise building with the protective equipment it needs by contacting our fire safety professionals today! 

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