Ask the Technician
T M Asked:
What should be maintenance aspect of Refuge area in terms of Upkeep, Temporary Usage etc.?
We often get request for temporary stowing and using Refuge area for minor works including welding.
The Local Authorities do not have any such norms except for the sizing that is required for constructing a Refugee area.
Douglas Krantz Answered:
Areas of Refuge
To escape from fire/smoke, areas of refuge are places people can be rescued from when for one reason or another they can't use the stairs.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), International Building Code (IBC), and other codes and publications aren't best practice standards; they really show the reasonably minimum guidelines needed to be safe.
All of these guidelines have been assembled over time, and all are incomplete because new problems keep cropping up and new technologies are created to mitigate the problems.
Sometimes the codes aren't clear about what should be done. When things haven't been clearly shown in these guidelines, we have to think about what the problem is, and what we can do about the problem.
In building fires, most people don't die from the flame; most people die from breathing the smoke. The smoke isn't like the wood smoke from a campfire; the smoke comes from plastics, glues, resins, etc.
The smoke is deadly.
Building smoke can kill a person after the person has only taken a few deep breaths. When the building is burning, smoke is traveling down the hall much faster than the flame. The area of refuge is a place that protects people from the smoke, as well as from the flame.
Fire/smoke does not happen on schedule, fire/smoke happens only when it isn't expected, unless, of course, one expects the fire/smoke at any time. Keep in mind, also, the area of refuge is going to be used by people who can't help themselves.
When there's fire/smoke, if the area of refuge is full of temporary usage stuff, there is no area of refuge. People who need the area of refuge aren't in any shape to move the temporarily stored material out of their way.
Don't store anything, even temporarily, in an area of refuge.
Again, fire/smoke doesn't happen on a schedule. For preventive maintenance, go around once a month to make sure smoke will stay out and someone needing rescue can get in and call for help.
The doors designed to protect anyone needing rescue have to close securely, and they have to close by themselves. When needed, the doors also have to open easily. Check each one once a month. If anything isn't working right, get it fixed.
The call boxes designed for the disabled need to be tested. Pretend you need help. Go around once a month, press each button, talk to whoever answers, let them know you are testing the system. If anything isn't working, get it fixed.
These are records for you to know what you have tested. Whether or not these records are required by law, these records are your memory system showing you what you have done. The more you have written down, the more you can remember what you did.