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Emergency Egress Strategies for Buildings



Richard W. Bukowski


The primary strategy for providing for the safety of building occupants in emergencies (especially fires) is by facilitating their relocation to a safe place. In other than a few institutional occupancies (health care and detentional) this generally involves the use of stairs as part of a protected means of egress (MOE) for vertical evacuation. For tall buildings with large populations, providing sufficient stair capacity for simultaneous egress is considered impractical, so the strategy of phased evacuation is employed. To this point in time, little attention has been paid to the special needs of people with disabilities and other (permanent or temporary) physical limitations in moving on stairs. In the aftermath of September 11, 2001 new attention is being paid to many issues, especially emergency egress from tall buildings. A number of experts have called for a fundamental rethinking of egress strategies including all of the possible components that might be employed. In September 2006 a workshop was organized in Atlanta by CIB W14:Fire and TG50:Tall Buildings, with one of the discussion topics devoted to this issue. The paper is intended to continue and extend that discussion. The paper presents a discussion of the major systems and sub-systems that make up or could be used within a means of egress, their performance objectives and limitations. With the material presented, the paper can facilitate an assessment of the performance of means of egress, especially addressing the needs of disabled occupants and accounting for the observed deterioration of physical condition of modern society. Issues discussed include current and more appropriate performance metrics for egress systems, stairs, core arrangements, protected elevators, refuge floors, active evacuation management, communication systems, and information flow. The paper suggests that egress systems can be designed to permit the self evacuation of all occupants including those with disabilities, in one hour or less, regardless of building height, at reasonable cost.
Proceedings Title
Interflam | | 2007 | Interscience Communications
Conference Dates
September 3-5, 2007
Conference Location
London, EN
Conference Title


egress elevators, egress stairs, high-rise firefighting, human factors, refuge floors, tall buildings


Bukowski, R. (2007), Emergency Egress Strategies for Buildings, Interflam | | 2007 | Interscience Communications, London, EN, [online], (Accessed June 25, 2024)


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Created September 5, 2007, Updated February 17, 2017