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Fire Alarm -- Description

An area of refuge inside a building is Defend-in-Place area, it is a safe place to go to case of fire.
When a person can't navigate the building exits by themselves, in case of fire and smoke, an Area of Refuge is a place that one can go to in order to "Defend-in-Place".
Douglas Krantz -- Fire Alarm Engineering Technician, Electronic Designer, Electronic Technician, Writer

What is an Area of Refuge?

By Douglas Krantz

Refuge -- A shelter or protection from danger, difficulty, etc.
Webster's New World College Dictionary

Why have an Area of Refuge?

You hear the message "Use the Stairs," you see the sign "In case of fire, don't take the elevator."

To get out of the building from the higher floors, when the building is on fire, the stairs are the only way out. However, some people just aren't physically able to take the stairs. What can those people do, other than seek refuge from the fire?

In a Building, What is an Area of Refuge?

In a building, an Area of Refuge is a safe place designed to protect people from a fire. It's a place for people to wait to be rescued by emergency personnel.

For the rescuers, it's a staging place to keep people safe until they can be evacuated.

Who Should Be Using an Area of Refuge?

Those using the place of refuge can be:
  • The Sick
  • The Blind
  • Those in a Wheelchair or using a Walker
  • The Elderly
  • The Very Young or Infants
  • Those with Bad Hearts
  • Diabetics
  • Patients in a hospital or nursing home
  • Nuclear Power Station Operators
  • Those unable to use the Safe Escape Route
  • Those who have Stayed Behind to Help
Unless helping another person needing to use the place of refuge, everyone should evacuate the building when it's on fire.

Requirements for an Area of Refuge

  • The Area of Refuge is a waiting area next to emergency exit path in a building
  • It's at all exit stairs for the building, on all levels -- except for the ground floor
  • It's off to the side, so it doesn't block others who are trying to get out
  • There's a fire barrier between the rest of the building and the Area of Refuge, to protect those waiting for rescue
  • It has fresh outside air to breathe, to protect those waiting from the smoke of the fire
  • It has to be big enough for one or more wheelchairs, depending on the size of the building
  • It has an emergency light in case of blackout
  • There are signs to show people where to go for refuge

Communications for the Areas of Refuge

To let rescuers know people are waiting in an Area of Refuge, a two-way voice communication system is provided.

There is a Central Control Point which is where the firemen or rescuers first come into the building.

At the Central Control Point, there are lights to indicate which Area of Refuge has someone calling for help. So the rescuers can talk directly to the person needing help, included at the Central Control Point is a talk/listen speaker with push-to-talk controls.

In each Area of Refuge, the two-way voice communication system consists of a talk/listen panel. On this panel is a:
  • Call button that can be used by those who can't go down the stairs
  • Confidence light that shows the call button has been pressed
  • Acknowledge light to show that someone at the central control point knows about the call for help
  • Talk/listen speaker to the entryway
Also posted at each location are directions on how to use the communication system.

Anyone needing help in the Area of Refuge presses the call button. Once the call button is pressed in the Area of Refuge, one of two things happen. Either the building personnel, upon seeing that someone has called for help from an Area of Refuge, can investigate and assist immediately, or the Central Control Panel, after a short time delay, calls a monitoring company or 911.

Area of Refuge

The Area of Refuge protects people from fire and smoke. It is a safe place for people who can't use stairs to wait for rescue.

There are signs to tell everyone about the Area of Refuge, and a two-way communication system to let the rescuers know someone needs help.

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