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Staging Areas for Persons With Mobility Limitations



J H. Klote, Harold E. Nelson, Scott Deal, Bernard M. Levin


The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is engaged in a project funded by the General Services Administration (GSA) to evaluate the concept of staging area as a means of fire protection for persons with disabilites as it applies to Federal office buildings. There is a rising concern for the safety from fire of persons who can not travel the building emergency exit routes in the same manner or as quickly as expected of able persons. One proposed solution for providing safety for persons with such disabilities is the provision of staging areas where they can "safely wait" until they can be assisted in safely leaving the building. The GSA has modified six buildings for fire protection of persons with mobility disabilities. Spaces that were turned into staging areas include passenger elevator lobbies, service elevator lobbies, sections of corridor, and rooms. Because these six GSA buildings were the first buildings ever to be retrofitted as discussed above, there were no precedents upon which to base the design or operation of the systems. Before this study the extent of the complexity of these systems and the interaction between the systems and people were unknown. It is not surprising that significant operational problems were uncovered with these first systems. These unavoidable problems coupled with the diversity of the applications in the six buildings resulted in a unique opportunity to learn about these systems. The conclusions were: (1) staging areas can be either a haven of safety or a death trap; (2) in many cases, the persons most needing the staging area protection may be unable to reach that area before their pathway (corridor or aisle ways) become lethal; and (3) the operation of a properly designed sprinkler system eliminates the life threat to all occupants regardless of their individual abilities.
NIST Interagency/Internal Report (NISTIR) - 4770
Report Number


handicapped, life safety, evacuation, flashover, office buildings, refuge, smoke barriers, smoke control, smoke hazards, sprinkler systems, egress, staging areas, occupants


Klote, J. , Nelson, H. , Deal, S. and Levin, B. (1992), Staging Areas for Persons With Mobility Limitations, NIST Interagency/Internal Report (NISTIR), National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD, [online], (Accessed May 19, 2024)


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Created February 1, 1992, Updated November 10, 2018