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Refuge points


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My work is mostly related to compliance issues within the hospitality industry. I note the increasing number of venues, especially private member’s clubs, that are are installing lifts to assist those with limited mobility to access facilities on upper floors. That has to be a good thing but it cannot be done without careful consideration of how these folk can be safely evacuated in the event of fire.

I have one such example where the new lift serves two floors above ground in a relatively large social club. The lift is a standard slow moving contraption within a protected shaft with no stairs and simply discharges into the room space via a lobby. The protected stair can be reached independently and a single refuge point will be provided.

All grand and all passed by BC. However, there is not a chance in hell that the staff will be able to use the evac-chairs. The evidence shows that in many venues of this type, there is a high turnover of staff and a heavy reliance on part-timers. Maintaining a rigid, appropriate  training programme will be impossible. 
Still, as far as BC is concerned, all boxes ticked, so responsibility is, rightly, squarely on the club. 
So we tried a drill with a 25 stone wheelchair user who was a member of the club. It turned out to be a belly-aching laugh for all concerned. Absolutely no way could the staff get the man onto the evac chair (I had to erect it for them as despite its simplicity and several demonstrations, they couldn’t). I didn’t fancy volunteering to sit in the chair as these young staff members pushed me over the first step of the steep stairs, nor did they trust me. What a debacle! How on earth this could be managed in the panic of a fire situation, I have no idea!

My conclusion is that either we prevent access by disabled persons, which would be intolerable, or we insist that the lift should also be the means of egress in an emergency. That would be a serious issue for many clubs and an impossibility for this one. Still, I do believe that in many situations evacuation lifts are the only reasonable answer.

Would appreciate comment on the general issue.


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