Safe Evacuation for All A top 10 List of Requirements

Laura Künzer, Gesine Hofinger, Robert Zinke


Evacuations are an important aspect of emergency planning. Many persons with special needs could reach a safe area on their own or with assistance by other people around, if evacuation planning and guidance considered them. The so-called self-rescue is crucial for safe evacuation, as fire services and other first-responders need some time to arrive at the scene. In general, people should find the conditions to arrive at a safe area on their own. In many buildings and infrastructures today, self-rescue is difficult for persons with special needs, e.g. wheelchair users. Sometimes it appears that designers and fire safety engineers only think of “average”, healthy and agile people in evacuations. But for safe and effective evacuations, different groups of people and their needs have to be considered. The paper suggests a top 10 list of requirements for safe evacuation and improvement of self-rescue from a psychological point of view. Universal Design or Design for All in evacuation has become more relevant in recent times, since accessibility as a political goal has made it possible for persons with special needs to participate more easily in public life. Nonetheless, regulations focus on how people enter a building but not on how to evacuate safely. Preparing for safer evacuations requires knowledge about different occupant groups and their needs. Requirements for different phases of evacuations are discussed and their implications for simulation and modelling, e.g. the potential impact of physiological requirements. The need for a multi-method approach to gather and integrate data, factors to foster safe evacuations, just as practical and design requirements are included. When self-rescue is not possible, assisted evacuation will rely on good leadership fostering social motivation. Last but not least, implementing design for all will help everyone to evacuate safely.


universal design; design for all; evacuation; psychology; requirements; special needs

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