Access Insight - November 2018

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Fire Safety Evacuation of People with Disabilities

by Chief Superintendent Michael Morris

Egress via Lifts for people with disabilities by Bruce Smith

The Rising Risks of Vertical Schools and Early Learning by Bruce Bromley

Refuge Areas Australian Experience by Lee Wilson

Fire versus Access

by Vanessa Griffin


FROM THE PRESIDENT’S DESK by Mark Relf AM President of the Association of Consultants in Access Australia


s usual the pace of activity increases as the year draws to an end and this year seems no different with;

• Publication of AS 1428.4.2 Wayfinding • Submission closing dates for the third review of the Disability Standard for Accessible Public Transport and the ABCB Discussion Paper on Accessible Housing • ACAA AGM and Seminar, which was a live webinar broadcast The ACAA AGM was well attended by more than 100 members with approximately half being online which was an obvious attraction for people living interstate or who are just time poor and with a simple logon being a more efficient use of their time. While the costs associated with the webinar are significant ACAA hopes to expand webinar events in 2019.

The alternative work experience pathway 2 to Associate membership of ACAA, which requires a tertiary qualification, triggered considerable discussion with some members fearing the addition of a second pathway to join ACAA could weaken the profession and overall credibility. Ironically, the allied design, construction and certification professions all have work experience pathways within membership arrangements and it appears reasonable that ACAA could achieve a suitable system. ACAA is confident that the RTO conducted Accreditation testing, CPD program, three years work experience from Associate to Accredited Member status is a robust program which exceeds the study requirements of the Certificate IV and Diploma in Access Consulting.

IN THIS ISSUE From the President’s Desk............................. 2 ACAA State Networks..................................... 3 From the ACAA Committee............................. 4

Egress via Lifts for People With Disabilities..................................................... 11

Address: 20 Maud Street, Geelong VIC 3220 Email: Phone: +61 3 5221 2820 Web:

Refuge Areas: An Australian Experience.......16

Editor: Farah Madon

Evacuation of People With Disabilities.......... 6

The Rising Risks of Vertical Schools and Early Learning............................................... 20 Fire vs Access............................................... 26


August / September 2018 Issue Cover photo credit - iStock Please email the Editor if you would like to showcase your project on the Cover of the next Access Insight



I think it is also widely acknowledged that nothing replaces work experience in terms of skills development. Nonetheless, the management committee will; • incorporate the feedback from members and • trial processing of several applications and release the findings in 2019 • work with various stakeholders and the skills service organisation Artibus on a new case for change to update the access consulting qualifications While some details of amendments to NCC 2019, in particular the verification methods DV1 and DV2 on accessibility are embargoed until February 2019 the presentation by Brian Ashe from the ABCB still provided some useful insight on what’s coming. In particular, the next phase of the Increased Competent use

of Performance project (IcUP) will embark on “quantification” of the Verification Methods. The presentation on Technology by Edward Santow, Human Rights Commissioner was an insightful look at the work of the AHRC and potential impacts on people disabilities. A further discussion paper will be released in 2019. I also wish to thank our Corporate sponsors AON Insurance, Paramobility and Australian Ramp & Access Solutions who attended the seminar. Access 2019 Conference planning continues and a call for papers will be publicised in December

Mark Relf AM

ACAA NSW Access Consultants Network Meeting

ACAA VIC Access Consultants Network Meeting

Date: Thursday 29th November Venue: Novotel Sydney Brighton Le Sands Contact: ACAA NSW Chairperson Robyn Thompson for details

Date: Friday 7th December Venue: Red Meeting Room, Ground Floor, 369 Royal Parade, Parkville Time: 2:30 to 6:30pm Contact: Terry Osborn for details

ACAA SA Access Consultants Network Meeting Dates for 2018: December – Breakup drinks date Contact: ACAA SA Chairperson Grant Wooller for details.

ACAA QLD Access Consultants Network Meeting Date: Tuesday 4th December Venue: Vision Australia Time: 12:30 to 4:30pm

ACAA WA Access Consultants Network Meeting Date: Tuesday 4th December Venue: The Oxford Hotel cnr 368 Oxford St and Anzac Road Leederville (Meet in the Garden there is a table booked under “Judi Donald”) Time: 4pm to 5:30pm Contact: ACAA WA Chairperson Anita Harrop for details.

October / November 2018




TREASURER: Mr Francis Lenny


ORDINARY MEMBERS: Ms Jennifer Barling Ms Cathryn Grant Mr Bruce Bromley

SECRETARY: Mrs Anita Harrop

CPD PROGRAM Since the Committee of Managements Strategic Planning Day in February of this year, we have working on reviewing and revising the Continuing Professional Development (CPD) programme for our association. This review, and ultimately the revision that has resulted from the review process, is a direct result of feedback from you, our membership. The review has been timely, coinciding with us developing and refining the mentoring programme, an additional pathway to achieving associate membership, our new logo and relaunching our website with a fresh new look! We are constantly striving to deliver an association that is contemporary and of the highest calibre and for this reason with have used other professional associations such as those that support Occupational Therapy and Architecture as our benchmark for the CPD Program revision. ACAA conducts a Continuing Professional Development program (CPD) so that each member can attain, maintain and update their knowledge and improve their skills to better service client needs in the field of access


consulting. Participation in the program is compulsory for all accredited members, and all associate members planning to upgrade to accredited member status in the future.

PROGRAM OVERVIEW The CPD program recognises that associate and accredited ACAA members have different learning needs and thus one change you will notice is that in addition to reducing the required number of CPD points members are required to achieve on an annual basis, the number of CPD points required for associated and accredited members is different.

ACCREDITED MEMBERS The CPD points program recognises that existing accredited members have attained the requisite knowledge to achieve accredited membership and that maintaining and updating their knowledge level is less intensive and requires less time than those seeking to attain accredited status. For accredited members achieving the minimum number of CPD is mandatory to maintain accredited member status.



affiliate members who may seek to transition to associate member status should also participate in the CPD program and record their CPD activities.

Associate members are only required to participate and record their CPD activities if they are likely to seek accredited member status in the future, as demonstrating your commitment to the CPD Program is one of the requisite items when applying for accredited membership.


As associate members are on a learning path and additional time and learning is required to reach the level of expertise and knowledge required for accreditation, associate members are required to achieve a higher number of CPD points per year, than accredited members.


Similar to other professional associations the CPD program incorporates formal (courses, conferences, seminars, webinars) and informal learning (mentoring, attending industry meetings, e-Learning, research etc) activities, and the maximum annual points accrual for each activity category is detailed on the ACAA website. CLICK HERE to view more information about CPD Points. The CPD program covers a 3 year rolling requirement for points achieved from a range of activities with annual milestones to be achieved as shown below:

Affiliate members are not required to participate in the CPD Program. However,









3 year minimum points







1 year minimum points







1 year maximum points









# There is no upper limit applied to formal CPD activities



Members will be randomly audited during a three-year cycle to ensure Activity Returns have been kept. Documentary evidence to support the points claimed must be provided as part of the audit. This new CPD Program commences from 01 July 2018, and thus a new three-year audit process will start from zero points from 1 July 2018, for all members.

The step by step process to upload CPD evidence follows and the Committee of Management encourage you to use this online facility, because from 01 July 2018 an administration fee of $100 will apply to CPD Activity or Individual Returns received by post, email or fax. There is no fee for members who use the online recording and submission webpage. DOWNLOAD INSTRUCTIONS ON HOW TO SUBMIT YOUR CPD ONLINE

October / November 2018



Evacuation of People with Disabilities by Michael Morris JP, CF Chief Superintendent - Fire and Rescue NSW and Managing Director of Samuel Morris Foundation

Chief Superintendent Michael Morris is an Emergency Management and Community Services specialist with over 28 years’ experience. He is currently responsible for Fire and Rescue New South Wales (FRNSW) Community Safety and Research portfolio, including the Community Engagement Unit, Fire Investigation and Research Unit and ComSafe the commercial safety training division. He has first hand experience dealing with disability advocacy and access issues as a result of family circumstances and his role as the Managing Director of the Samuel Morris Foundation. This article was compiled with assistance of Superintendent Michael Jay – Manager Community Engagement Unit, and Senior Firefighter Melanie Rebane – Community Safety Programs Coordinator - Aged and Disability Programs.





ire and Rescue New South Wales (FRNSW) understands that during fire emergencies and natural disasters, the daily inequalities that people with disabilities face may be amplified. Deaf people may not hear early warning systems. People with vision impairment may have trouble evacuating, or people who rely on wheelchairs or other mobility aids might find it difficult to mobilise in a timely manner. Almost 20 percent of Australians have a disability (ABS SDAC, 2015), and this is increasing due to population growth and an ageing population. Disability covers permanent and temporary conditions from mobility, vision, hearing or intellectual impairment, to recovery from sporting injuries or other operations. To effectively mitigate their risk, employees and community members who are most vulnerable in fire emergencies and disasters should be at the forefront of emergency planning in both the workplace and at home.

Without their input in the planning stages, their specific needs may be overlooked. Co-designing practical solutions with building designers, managers and employers should include people with disabilities in all phases of preparation, planning, response and recovery from fire emergencies and natural disasters. FRNSW strongly advocates that all people with a disability prepare a Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan (PEEP) and practice the plan well in advance of an emergency. Australian Standard (AS) 3745 – 2010 Planning for emergencies in facilities, recommends that occupants with disabilities requiring assistance to evacuate in an emergency are equipped with a PEEP as part of the overall emergency plan. Employers need to survey employees on a regular basis to determine any specific evacuation requirements. A PEEP is a practical measure to ensure appropriate, agreed actions are taken for the individual and there is provision in an

October / November 2018


FEATURED ARTICLE emergency evacuation. When preparing a PEEP, the person with the disability needs to work with the employer and building manager to ensure their needs are met. Specialised equipment, such as vibrating personal notification devices, strobe lights, and evacuation chairs should be considered to improve the evacuation process. AS 3745 applies to buildings, structures or workplaces occupied by people except for Class 1a buildings as defined in the Building Code of Australia, unless that dwelling is also a workplace. Under Clause 4.2.9, lifts and escalators should not be relied upon as a means of evacuation from fire unless their suitability has undergone a regulatory approval process. Often lift shafts are not protected from smoke and can be hazardous when seeking refuge from a fire. Clause 4.2.17 states consideration should be given to stairway evacuation devices for people who use wheelchairs. These specialised chairs have wheels or tracks that can be lowered down stairs and rely on another person to assist with evacuation. A PEEP is best practice to plan what assistance is required well before any emergency occurs. Then when an emergency occurs, the Floor Warden should liaise with the Chief Warden and establish what level of evacuation is occurring (full or partial) and advise the Chief Warden that a wheelchair user or person with another mobility issue is on their floor. If a PEEP is well planned, the Chief Warden can then advise responding firefighters how to assist in evacuating that person, if required. Firefighters may be the quickest and easiest evacuation solution if the building design does not facilitate easy evacuation of those with a disability. The wheelchair/mobility aid user should be brought to a place near the emergency exit. They should not be taken into the fire stairs to ‘wait’, unless the fire stair landings are built to accommodate a wheelchair/ mobility aid and allow safe passage. However, if there’s an emergency where people are at immediate risk and the only safe place is the fire stairs, it 8

makes sense to get the person into the stairwell. The valuable part of the AS 3745-2010 is that it promotes and encourages a plan that is developed with the person involved. All individuals, regardless of their abilities, have some obligation to take responsibility for their own safety and prepare a plan for evacuation during an emergency.

EMERGENCY PROCEDURES CHECKLIST • Have the evacuation procedures been developed to consider the needs of all employees? • Has a fire warden been assigned to each work area? • Is the fire warden aware of any people with a disability in their area? • Does each person who requires assistance to evacuate have a PEEP? • Are all employees familiar with the evacuation procedures? • Are evacuation drills conducted regularly, including practice for evacuating people with disability? • Are smoke detectors and fire extinguishers installed and regularly tested? • Are flashing light fire alarms installed? • Are all emergency exits clear and unobstructed? • Are the emergency procedures clearly displayed? • Are the emergency procedures available in appropriate formats to meet the needs of all employees?

When designing buildings, although the Disability (Access to Premises - Buildings) Standards 2010 – known as the ‘Premises Standards’ – and the BCA do not outline any specific disability egress provisions, several of the key performance requirements (DP4 and


FEATURED ARTICLE DP6) suggest that egress for people with disabilities needs to be considered. The Australian Building Codes Board has recognised the potential role of lifts for evacuation in the advisory (non-mandatory) handbook ‘Lifts Used During Evacuation’ (ABCB, 2013). The use of lifts for evacuation is not a new idea and is recognised to some extent by BCA Performance requirement DP7, and by the requirement for emergency lifts for use by fire services. For this reason, building designers need to consider in the early stage of design the use of lifts as part of building evacuation methods to assist with the vertical evacuation of occupants with disabilities. The use of evacuation aids such as chairs or sheets can be time-consuming and labour-intensive, and place people with disabilities and those who need to assist them at risk for longer than necessary if the building systems do not support their safe evacuation. Emergency refuges are being introduced into some building designs within Australia. These can be separate rooms near exits (typically fire stairs) or enlarged landings in fire stairs that allow sufficient space for a wheelchair without affecting other occupants’ descent. Ideally, refuges should have sufficient fire resistance levels and an intercommunication system linked back to the main fire indicator panel.

planning and building design. All stakeholders involved in building design, maintenance and management should seek appropriate advice on disability access and egress from suitably qualified access consultants, building certifiers, fire engineers and, importantly, people with disabilities themselves.

REFERENCES Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) 2013, Lifts used during evacuation, Non-Mandatory Handbook Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2016, 4430.0 Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers 2015, viewed 11 November, 2018 Australian Standard (AS) 3745 – 2010 Planning for emergencies in facilities and Disability (Access to Premises - Buildings) Standards 2010 Bennetts, I.D. 2018, Evacuation of vulnerable persons by lifts, ASIA PACIFIC FIRE MAGAZINE, Issue 65, April 2018, pp.69-72

Emergency refuges are designed to be a safe place, where people with a disability can wait for assistance from responding firefighters. Pre-incident planning should include consideration of how to inform local firefighters of their existence during an emergency. Ultimately, the only safe place in an emergency is outside the building, so building design and emergency procedures should be focused on ensuring all occupants can evacuate the building in a safe, timely and equitable manner. Reducing risk for employees and community members who are most vulnerable in emergencies means putting people with disabilities at the forefront of emergency October / November 2018



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Egress via Lifts for people with disabilities by Bruce Smith

Bruce is a Principal Fire Safety Engineer at Cundall, a global engineering and sustainability consultant and is based in Melbourne, with approximately 15 years’ experience in the Fire Protection/Fire Engineering industry. Bruce was born with a disability, namely Cerebral Palsy (Spastic Diplegia) which results in restricted balance and movement, which often presents challenges on a daily basis.


efore the events of Grenfell in the UK and Lacrosse building fires in Melbourne, amongst other incidences around the world in relation to combustible cladding, another issue was in a lot of ways front of mind for both those in the access and engineering fraternity and the wider community was with regard to the use of lifts for evacuation in multi-storey high rise buildings. This was of particular importance to me, being a fire safety engineer and a person with cerebral palsy. I struggle on a day to day basis navigating a general day, whether that is chasing my young children around the house or navigating the stairs, or the walk from my car to my workplace in a crowded city.

HISTORICAL CONTEXT The access requirements to buildings for people with disabilities has been legislated since a United Nations resolution 3447 was decided upon on the 9th December 1975 Provisions for access for those with mobility concerns in Australia have been widely addressed within the Disability Discrimination

Act promulgated in 1992, followed by the Access to Premises Standard in 20101 Subsequent versions of the NCC documented provisions for access to buildings, however did not specifically address egress provisions for occupants with mobility impairments. The publication and requirement to comply with Access to Premises Standard in 2010 required egress provisions to be considered. This response whilst considered was some time off being formalised.

STATISTICS From latest statistical data obtained by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 20152 4,29 Million people within Australia identify themselves has having a disability, with 16.0% of those (3.7 Million) having specific limitation or restrictions, suggesting that whilst percentages of those whom may be impacted in using a lift for evacuation have dropped the overall quantity those potentially affected in using a lift for evacuation has increased by 300,00 in 6 years.

AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL CONSTRUCTION CODE PERFORMANCE REQUIREMENT DP7 With the publication of NCC 20133 came the inclusion of performance requirement DP7, in which a lift may be used for evacuation in addition to other required exit provisions. (fire stairs and the like). This remains the case within the current NCC 2016 Volume 1 Amendment 1. One of the key requirements to consider “where a lift is intended to be used, in 1 Disability (Access to Premises — Buildings) Standards 2010 Disability Discrimination Act 1992 2 ABS Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia: Summary of Findings – 2015 3 ABCB. (2018). National Construction Code Series: Volume One Building Code of Australia 2013 Class 2 to Class 9 Buildings (Vol. 1). Canberra, ACT: Australian Building Codes Board. October / November 2018


FEATURED ARTICLE addition to the required exits to assist occupant to evacuate a building safely, the type location and fire isolation must be appropriate to the number, mobility and other characteristics of occupants”, in addition to seven other key criteria. With the inclusion of performance requirement DP7 into the NCC 2013, along came other materials providing guidance to building professionals and the wider community as a whole, being Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) “Lifts Used During Evacuation” (2013) Handbook4 and Metropolitan Fire Brigade Guidelines GL07 and GL315. Upon noting the previous clause in relation to occupant characteristics this is where my professional skills and life experience as a person with a disability converge and raise more questions rather than immediate answers.

OTHER CODES AND JURISDICTIONS Egress provisions exist in many forms in equivalent jurisdictions worldwide, notably in the United States6, Sweden7, New Zealand8 4 ABCB. (2013). Information Handbook: Lifts Used During Evacuation. Canberra, ACT: Australian Building Codes Board. 5 6 NFPA (2009). ‘NFPA 101 Life Safety Code’. National Fire Protection Association Inc., Quincy, Massachusetts, USA. 7 Building Regulations, Boverkert, Swedish Board of Housing, Building and Planning, Karlskrona, Sweden, 1994. 8 New Zealand Building Code, Building Industry Authority, Wellington, NZ, 1992.


and British9 Building Codes and Standards with varying requirements to achieve a satisfactory outcome. I am also the first to note, that I’m not the first person to undertake research and discussion around this topic10,11 but consider myself more than qualified to add to and raise items for discussion given my unique skill set.

ENGINEERING CONSTRAINTS AND PREVIOUS LEARNED BEHAVIOURS From review of other building codes and previous research the main constraints and problems that may prevent building occupants from using such facilities relate to education and training and ensuring that occupant confidence is instilled in the egress systems. For example, past educational efforts have taught persons that lifts are a risk in fire and should not be used. The education, training and occupant information issue needs to be addressed to ensure successful implementation of egress provisions for persons with a disability. 9 BS 5588 Fire Precautions in the Design and Construction of Buildings Part 8: Code of Practice for Means of Escape for Disabled Persons, British Standards Institute, London, UK, 1988. 10 Proulx, G. and Pineau, P., Review of Evacuation Strategies for Occupants with Disabilities, Institute for Research in Construction, National Research Council Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, 1996. 11 Kuligowski, E, Elevators for Occupant Evacuation and Fire Department Access, NIST, 2003


FEATURED ARTICLE towards the use of lifts for evacuation, in a mobility impaired context. Outcomes of this research were presented at the Society of Fire Protection Engineers Conference, 10th international conference in November 2015. In all 96 respondents provided answers to series of questions, of which 28 percent identified themselves to have a disability.

Figure 1: Common Place Lift Signage (

It is apparent that using lifts for evacuation is possible to be achieved given designs incorporate elements which assist in making evacuation as safe as possible for occupants wishing to use a lift. Such elements will necessitate adoption of a range of measures to protect lift shafts beyond what is presently required and the adoption of a wide range of training and management changes. If lifts are to be called into service in an emergency role, the physical protection, lift operational availability and operational procedures of both persons required to evacuate and fire brigade intervention will have required to be addressed in further detail.

RESEARCH AND FINDINGS In response to the introduction of DP7, in 2013/2014, Associate Professor K.Moinuddin and myself12 undertook a research project undertaking a literature review of various building codes, past research and survey with findings to determine respondents’ attitudes 12 Smith BJ et al “An Insider’s Perspective” – Use of lifts for emergency evacuation for persons with mobility disabilities” Masters Thesis. CESARE, Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia, 2014.

Questions included within this research included and queried such opinions as to whether respondents though it is it safe to use a lift or not, would respondents use a fire stair or lift in the workplace if both were available, what can change your mind to use a lift to evacuate, how long would those preferring to use a lift to evacuate wait for its arrival, what are perceived primary threats to use of a lift, attitudes toward safe refuges in comparisons to lifts, awareness of other various mean of evacuation (evacuation chairs, personal evacuation plan’s safe refuges and the like) and finally preferred evacuation methods.

KEY FINDINGS ABOUT USING LIFT FOR EVACUATION A number of key findings were taken from the 2014 research and data gained from respondents. The main findings were: • The vast majority of respondents concur that lifts are at present unsafe for use, other than those within the fire engineering fraternity whom may have pre-existing knowledge of potential risks. • Improved perceived reliability of lift operation and increased education and training surrounding design and procedures can change minds to use lift for evacuation. • People are generally not willing to wait more than 120 sec for lift to arrive. • The lift car itself is considered as the main threat to use it such as becoming trapped in a lift car, failure of lift car components etc. • A lift is favoured over safe refuge. There remains a lack of awareness among the population about various means of evacuation or specific strategies within their October / November 2018


FEATURED ARTICLE own buildings for people with disability. When Human interaction is involved buddy system is much preferred. Surprisingly only 6% preferred evacuation by fire brigade.

• The wider community are not aware that lifts may be used to evacuate during emergency and they are reluctant to use such an evacuation tool.

Figure 2: What can change your mind to use a lift to Evacuate

Figure 3: Threats to Using a Lift in a Fire

MOVING FORWARD From the review current practices which have not changed in detail from 2013, egress for mobility impaired building occupants, combined with providing a regulatory framework for egress from buildings for disabled building occupant is an important step, in reaching a level of equality for all buildings regardless of their physical ability and status, providing means of equitable egress in an evacuation, in a dignified way. 14

Whilst using lifts for evacuation is possible from an engineering perspective, from a community perception and understanding, much work is still needed. It is apparent that using lifts for evacuation is possible to be achieved given designs incorporate elements which assist in making evacuation as safe as possible for occupants wishing to use a lift. Further research is also required into reliability of lifts as it was one of survey respondent’s


FEATURED ARTICLE main concerns in using a lift to evacuate in the event of fire. It is also clearly apparent that a far greater level of education and training is required to the wider community as a whole, to educate and advise of the issues surrounding using a lift for evacuation as this study suggests a general reluctance to use lifts even if designed for evacuation primarily due to lack of knowledge and influences of learned behaviours not to use lifts in fire. The opinions of many have been shared in past research. However, the opinions and attitudes of mobility impaired occupants, and those commonly the subject of assessment by access consultants, fire engineering and other professionals, must be further documented and understood. In all reality they are the occupants most at risk and little appears to be known as to their personal attitudes, nor is it apparent that data in relation to use of lifts for evacuation in a actual fire event is readily available.

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October / November 2018


Refuge Areas: An Australian Experience by Lee Wilson Director Egress Group Pty Ltd

Lee Wilson is a disability access, egress and universal design consultant based in Melbourne. He is an Accredited Member of ACAA and a Subject Matter Expert with the Australian Building Codes Board. Lee has worked all over Australia, often consulting on complex building projects requiring a performance-based approach to compliance.


lanning for the evacuation of people with disabilities from buildings has been described as a “can of worms”.

In Australia, we now have Commonwealth legislation requiring buildings to be accessible “to and within all areas normally used by the occupants”, all the while ignoring the challenges some people face during an emergency evacuation. This is far from an ideal situation.

from a fire hazard for people with disabilities while waiting for assistance to evacuate”. The document also proposed many amendments to the prescriptive requirements of the Building Code of Australia Volume 1 (BCA) to support the inclusion of these refuge areas. RD97/01 made this important statement: “The emphasis in the past has been to enable people with disabilities to enter buildings. An aspect often overlooked is if their entry is by lift and the lift is not available in the event of an emergency, and because of their disability they can not use the fire stairways, how then are they protected and ultimately evacuated? The BCA performance clauses require the safety of all people in the event of an emergency.” Even back in 1997, the seriousness of this issue was identified, some 14 years before the introduction of the Disability (Access to Premises – Buildings) Standards 2010 (Premises Standards). However, this statement is still as relevant today as it was in 1998. RD97/01 had good intent and proposed that occupants who are unable to use stairs could wait in a suitable location, with fire and smoke separation, for rescue assistance. However, the

There is no one specific piece of legislation that mandates all evacuation provisions for people with disability. The current framework includes human rights, disability, building and workplace safety legislation, but somewhere, this important piece of the puzzle to inclusion, giving the right to feel safe, protected and confident in buildings has not been addressed. In 1998, the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) acknowledged this gap and the need for accessible egress options. The ABCB published a Regulation Document ‘RD97/01, Provisions for People with Disabilities’, which proposed the use of a ‘place of refuge’. This was defined as “a place which offers protection 16


ABCB ‘Direction Report on Egress for All Occupants’ released in 2013 reported that the concept of waiting in a ‘safe’ place was not well received, it was not seen as being equitable and the effectiveness of a place of refuge was challenged. The preference would be to use a passenger lift to return to an entry level. Subsequently, the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre Twin Towers in 2001 were a testament to these concerns when those waiting in designated places of refuge all perished while firefighters ascending the stairs took over one hour to reach the 30th floor. The use of a ‘safe’ refuge area is a concept that has always received mixed support. From an equity perspective, why should someone have to wait to be evacuated, while others can reach safety? Who deemed it to be ‘safe’? Would they feel safe waiting for assistance? And what is an acceptable time to wait? A recent case study in Italy found that refuge areas “are designed ineffectively because of the complexity of many contemporary buildings and the low levels of regulatory information on how to properly design them in accordance with people’s expectations.” The research highlights that for a refuge area to be effective there needs to be knowledge, understanding and a willingness to use a refuge area. The BCA, now part of the National Construction Code (NCC,) has been amended and updated many times since BCA96 and we continue to see many references throughout the BCA Performance Requirements mandating an overarching requirement to consider “the number, mobility and other characteristics of the occupants” without sufficient prescriptive ‘Deemed-to-Satisfy’ provisions to support this. Fortunately, the BCA was amended in 2013 to add a new Performance Requirement, DP7, to permit the use of lifts during an emergency and released guidance in the form of a non-mandatory Handbook. This approach supports the ‘everybody-out’ approach with full or staged evacuation. Practitioners can now use the Handbook to develop performance-based design solutions to use lifts for evacuation. Turning back to 9/11, lifts were proven to be successful where 27% of people who escaped used a lift for part of their route. We now know that buildings are so tall that it is no longer reasonable to expect occupants to use an exit stair as their only October / November 2018


FEATURED ARTICLE means of egress, particularly when we consider older and younger people attempting to travel down a long exit stair path. So where are we at now? We’re two years into a three-year edition of BCA 2016. BCA 2019 was released for public comment earlier in the year and there were no proposed changes to egress provisions for people with disabilities. Which leaves us in evacuation limbo. For almost 22 years since RD97/01, we have continued to maintain a status quo, given that most buildings will not have evacuation lifts installed. Which leaves us in a bind in two ways: 1. For simple buildings, like a 5-storey office building with lift access, it will be certified as safe for occupation, compliant with the NCC/BCA (and Premises Standards) without provisions for the evacuation of people with disabilities; and 2. On more complex projects there will usually be a fire engineer developing a fire safety strategy and this strategy could rely on the use of refuge areas. The latter of the two is increasingly becoming more common, and often necessary in complex buildings. When this occurs, fire engineers will often turn to overseas standards. This is a double-edged sword. Why? Because they will usually rely on the NFPA 101® Life Safety Code®, which in turn draws upon the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA is considered to be years ahead of our DDA and includes a requirement that all emergency evacuation plans include measures for the safe evacuation of people with disability. NFPA 101® includes the requirement for an ‘accessible means of egress’ via an evacuation lift or assisted egress with the provision of safe refuges. An accessible means of egress has been defined as a “continuous and unobstructed way of egress travel from any point in a building or facility that provides an accessible route to an area of refuge, a horizontal exit, or a public way”.

Therefore, refuge areas form part of many buildings designed to these requirements and when they do, NFPA 101® states that each refuge shall accommodate the ADA sized wheelchair space of 30 inches x 48 inches (which in metric, equates to 760mm x 1220mm) less than our own wheelchair space of 800mm x 1300mm. Fire engineers are not experts in functional needs, nor are they generally conversant in designing accessible paths of travel. The need for expert advice was an amendment to AS 3745-2010, which states “In developing the regulatory approval, a team including a fire safety engineer, a mechanical services engineer, a lift engineer, an emergency planning consultant and an access consultant should jointly produce a strategy document that would be both part of the documentary evidence and of the emergency plan.” From my own experience, there are common



FEATURED ARTICLE issues in the design of those little rectangle shapes that get dropped onto a plan and here are my top 10 observations: 1. A continuous accessible path of travel leading to the refuge area is not considered; 2. The functional needs of a person using a mobility device manoeuvring into each refuge area space are not understood; 3. People are being put into harm’s way when locating refuge areas spaces in exposed areas directly adjacent to a path of travel; 4. They are often designed to ADA/NFPA spatial requirements; 5. Fire hydrants are located behind refuge area spaces, creating an unworkable situation where firefighters need to connect large, heavy hoses to a hydrant; 6. Line marking is often not considered; 7. NFPA 101® requires braille and tactile signage on the path to the refuge area and at the door into the refuge are, yet we have no standardised design; 8. Communication systems need to be effective and connect to a real person, who can provide information. Reliance on a person having a mobile phone is not acceptable. Alarm sounder volume in the area must be reduced. In the UK, it is common to connect these to an induction loop; 9. Refuge areas are ineffective unless evacuation plans and evacuation diagrams detail where they are, how you get there and what happens once you are there; and

can understand the finer details of an Australian refuge design.

REFERENCES ABCB 1997, RD97/01 Provisions for People with Disabilities ABCB 2013, Lifts Used During Evacuation Handbook Non-Mandatory Document, ABCB, Canberra ABCB 2013, Directions Report on Egress for All Occupants ABCB 2014, Emergency Egress for Occupants with Disability Consultation Regulation Impact Statement Bukowski, RW 2008, Emergency Egress from Ultra Tall Buildings, CTBUH 8th World Congress 2008 Carattin, E, Tatano, V 2015, To Areas of Refuge and Beyond: Proposals For Improving Egressibility For The Disabled. A Case Study in Italy Charters, D 2008, ‘Express Elevator’, Fire Safety Engineering, Vol. 15 Issue 4 Communities and Local Government 2008, The adequacy of refuges, escape stairs and management procedures, BD 2441

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10. Lastly, refuge area spaces can be really miserable, dark corners without suitable lighting, and not a welcoming place one would feel confident waiting. Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on your viewpoint, refuge areas are not going away any time soon. They are frequently part of an evacuation strategy in complex buildings and often used in conjunction with evacuation lifts. It is, therefore, time we had our own industry guidance, so all building practitioners

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The Rising Risks of Vertical Schools and Early Learning by Bruce Bromley Managing Director: Equal Access Group Pty Ltd Accredited Disability Access Consultant Bruce formed Equal Access Pty Ltd in 2006 in response to a growing recognition, that whilst businesses were being urged to respond to their obligations under the Disability Discrimination Act, the majority of assistance available was focused almost entirely upon the needs of the individual with a disability without an understanding of the impacts and practicalities for building owners, managers and consultants. Bruce also specialises in evacuation procedures and policy for people with a disability and is a member of the Fire Protection Association Australia.



he increase in vertical schools is a response to the growing demand for education in cities, with recent reports suggesting that Victoria will need an extra 220 schools by 2026. The first vertical school in Australia opened in 1976, however, Victoria now has a handful of inner-city vertical schools, with one opening in South Melbourne earlier this year. As an Accredited Disability Access Consultant and Emergency Workplace Evacuation Standards development committee member, I believe there are several ways that vertical schools differ from traditional single-storey schools in terms of fire danger. Vertical schools need to be prepared to cater for all students in the event of an emergency and take special consideration of how individuals will safely navigate through multi-story buildings. Typically evacuation plans do not satisfactorily address the evacuation of students or staff members with a disability in either state or private education care environments. The current policy of ‘leave in place’ and wait for emergency services to rescue is seriously flawed, as are the building classifications used, especially for early learning and junior primary school aged children.


When it comes to fire safety, there are certain groups and individuals with a higher risk of injury or death, including individuals with disabilities, chronic health conditions and younger children. With older children a staff member or student with a disability may not be able to evacuate downstairs or react quickly to a danger such as fire, and teachers may not be trained to effectively assist a child with a disability down multiple storeys. Therefore, it’s crucial that schools have safety procedures in place that are accommodating to these groups.

PERFORMANCE REQUIREMENTS The Building Code of Australia negligently excludes the provision of ‘Deemed to Satisfy’ (DtS) elements that address the evacuation of people with disability. Additionally, the current version of the Building Code of Australia does not take into account the safety and evacuationof babies, toddlers and young children from multi-storey buildings from an early learning or childcare environment. When buildings are fire engineered, as is the case for most developments, both the Relevant Building Surveyor and fire engineer must assess the level of compliance against BCA performance requirement DP4. DP4 a. Exits must be provided from a building to allow occupants to evacuate safely, with their number, b. location and dimensions being appropriate to: iii.

the travel distance; and


the number, mobility and other characteristics of occupants; and


the function or use of the building; and


the height of the building; and


whether the exit is from above or below ground level.

WHAT IS THE NUMBER, MOBILITY AND OTHER CHARACTERISTICS OF OCCUPANTS? When we raise concerns on projects regarding evacuation of people with a disability we are often told “we do not know who will be occupying the building” or “the design is based on a comparison against a previous similar building”. In most instances rather than designing safety into buildings for the vulnerable, it is left to the building owners or managers following handover by stating ‘evacuation procedures in accordance with AS 3745-2010 Planning for emergencies in facilities’ Within the results of the 2015 Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers, a profile of people with disability in Australia are available. A broad summary follows. • There were 4.3 million Australians with disability in 2015, • The likelihood of living with a disability increases with age; 2 in 5 people with disability were aged 65 years or older, • Almost 1/3 of people with a disability had a profound or severe disability, • Around 3 in 5 people with a disability needed assistance with at least one activity of daily living, • Around half of people with a disability used aids or equipment to help with their disability, • Around 1 in 5 people with a disability said their main long-term health condition was a mental or behavioural disorder. The following link below provides access to the full survey: abs@.nsf/DetailsPage/4446.02009 As this information is freely available we must ask ourselves why this data is not used as a minimum when fire engineering a building where key disabilities are identified, and then addressed with a solution.

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FEATURED ARTICLE A NEW CLASSIFICATION? As an example, the current early learning staff to student ratio set by the Victorian Government is one educator assigned to eleven children over the age of 3 and one educator assigned to four children under the age of 3, which makes a quick and safe evacuation near impossible and comparable to residents of an aged care facility due to the following reasons:

• The C1.10 are lower for Class 9b than Class 3, 9a • Wall and Ceiling surface materials are group 1 or 2 (unsprinklered) • Compartment Sizes C2.2 is Type A = 8000m2 • Type A separation requirements and construction of fire isolated exits and Floors, Fire Walls in Spec C1.1 = FRL 120/120/120

• Reduced cognitive awareness and increased confusion,

• Class 5 to 9 -Up to 25m no sprinklers, over 25m sprinklers are required

• Physically unable to evacuate and use stairs,

A change in classification needs to be considered for early learning and childcare as the requirements for class 9b as highlighted above do not require compartmentation nor do they require sprinklers for a building under 25m in height.

• Easily fatigued The NCC classification of 9b does not provide sufficient safety mechanisms for young children within a childcare or early learning centre nor children with a disability. SECTION C FOR CLASS 9B C1.10 Fire hazard properties: • The fire hazard properties of the following °° linings, materials and assemblies in Class 2 to 9 building must comply with specification C1.10


By changing the classifications for such tenancies or buildings from 9b to 9c (aged care) fire compartmentation and sprinklers become mandatory thereby providing a higher level of safety to all building occupants.

EVACUATION PLANNING The following are some simple strategies to


FEATURED ARTICLE reduce risk and ensure all staff, visitors or members of the public are considered in emergency management plans: • Fire wardens should keep a list of people with disability including staff, people visiting the building and record where they are going. This could also be managed by building security or management. • Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans or PEEPs should be prepared for people with a disability. • General Emergency Evacuation Plans should be prepared that consider the needs of all people with disability visiting the building. • Consideration should be given to providing equipment or adopting methods to alert visitors with hearing impairment of any building alarm during an emergency evacuation or evacuation rehearsal, such as pagers, visual alarms or displays, or SMS notification.

One solution, however, is to install fire isolated lifts at a significant cost to the development and whilst the BCA again does not have DtS provisions to cover this, Performance Requirement DP7 was introduced to make way for their inclusion. At that time the ABCB also produced a handbook titled ‘Lifts Used During Evacuation’ that discusses how performance could be achieved. In addition to lifts, internationally, there is a trend for fire safe refuges to be incorporated into stairwells as well as the provision of Evacuation Chairs, something that should be adopted here in Australia too. FIRE REFUGES Individuals who rely on elevators, including people with a permanent or temporary disability, or adults who may be pregnant or are postoperative, are essentially trapped within the building and forced to wait until emergency services arrive on site.

Several factors can affect response times in urban areas, most prominently, road congestion, natural disasters and terrorism, particularly as Melbourne’s population continues to soar. ELEVATORS FOR EVACUATION Vertical schools are designed with elevators, which of course, should in most cases not be used in the event of a fire. The primary reason is due to a piston effect where a lift can either draw down smoke or push it to other areas of the building via the lift well, with smoke inhalation more likely to cause a fatality than the fire itself.

Each level of a building should have a designated area that is both smoke and fire separated where a person with mobility limitations can safely wait for help during an evacuation. Each space for a person using a wheelchair should be at least 800mm x 1300mm and away from the path to the exit doors or exit stair. Ideally, each area should have accessible signage identifying the area and a communication intercom that connects to the fire indicator panel for communicating with emergency services personnel. Where October / November 2018


FEATURED ARTICLE there is a high number of building occupants on a level of a building the number of spaces must be increased. EVACUATION CHAIRS Evacuation Chairs are compact and foldable mobile chairs used to evacuate people with disability downstairs. The chairs have wheels and rubber tracks which allow for controlled descent downstairs. Generally, evacuation chairs have speed regulating and braking systems that control the speed of descent and have additional brakes when stationary.


Evacuation Chairs are normally operated by one person. However, some models allow for 2 people to evacuate a person upstairs. They are particularly useful for people who require a mobility aid or have a health condition, wherein the event of an emergency are unable to use a lift and are unable to exit the building via the stairs.

IN SUMMARY At the end of the day, vertical schools are a positive contribution to urban areas however the result of a fire in a multi-storey building can be much more catastrophic than that of a single level school. As such, vertical schools, childcare and early learning centres must remain vigilant in undertaking regular fire drills and having comprehensive evacuation plans in place that suit the needs of all occupants. Additionally, our Building Regulations must change to reflect community expectations and accommodate how buildings are now used.


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Fire versus Access by Vanessa Griffin ACAA Accredited Access Consultant Vista Access Architects

Vanessa is an ACAA accredited member with an extensive working history in Building Surveying and Access Consulting and specialising in fire safety. Vanessa’s knowledge of the BCA and the relevant Australian Standards for fire safety saw her hold A1 accreditation with the BPB in NSW .


ire safety versus Access; it is the big question that no one really wants to answer, form a policy on, or make a judgement call for legislation. It has to be questioned ‘Why is it required that a person with a disability enter a building in a safe an equitable manner, and yet when a risk is at the forefront such as a fire in a building, safe evacuation and equitable evacuation for a person with a disability is not a requirement or a priority?’


The Building Code of Australia (NCC) Volume 1 is very specific for class 2 – 9 buildings. Section C Fire Resistance of the document holds the most weight about the construction methods and design requirements of a building. The main objective is to ensure safety of occupants in the event of a fire risk. However, the requirements are not generic across all states and territories in Australia. Each state or territory has their own variation to the prescribed deemed-to-satisfy requirements and it is important that you are familiar with the variations for the state or territory in which you are undertaking work. Variations are actually based on state-based research and the representations of each government. Whilst the BCA is a Commonwealth and State government initiative, the document is adopted by each state for their own variations. The building classification and the rise of storeys determine the type of construction method required for a building being either A, B, or C. Type A construction being the highest level and Type C the lowest level based on the use and the risk associated with the building.


FEATURED ARTICLE Table C1.1 from the BCA details the construction levels for different classes and rise and storeys.

Section D of the BCA plays to most weight in the profession of Access Consulting and it can be seen that Part D3 Access for People with a Disability of the BCA is almost the same as the Disability (Access to Premises-Building) Standards 2010. The objective of The Disability (Access to Premises-Building) Standards 2010 (APS) was to provide dignified, equitable, cost-effective and reasonably achievable access to buildings for all new buildings and the affected path of alternations and additions to existing buildings. The APS was legislated and incorporated into the BCA to ensure it carried weight in regards to design, construction and certification therefore forming Section D3 of the BCA. The aim has been to provide equitable and dignified access to and within a building however; in the event of an emergency, no deemed-to-satisfy provisions have been

made for the safe evacuation of a person with a disability. The BCA is so focused on fire safety and evacuation, but no provision for a person with a disability to safely evacuate in a dignified manner has been mandated. As like the exit sign in a designated exit, it is assumed a person is able to move in a swift manner to evacuate a building. To most person this image appears as a running man. Further to that not all entry points to a building are required to be nominated as a designated exit. Therefore, a dignified and equitable entry to a building, may in turn not be an exit from a building in the event of an emergency. This is further complicated by the width of an exit, and any associated doors. A path of travel to an exit is required to meet a minimum

October / November 2018


FEATURED ARTICLE width, but there is no specific width for the exit door clear opening. Hence; an exit door in the open position is not required to achieve an 850mm clear opening. In most cases a developer/builder will undertake the absolute minimum to increase the profit margin. In buildings with a rise in stories of 2, it is not uncommon for a set of stairs to form part of the access to other levels, as well as a lift. Generally, the stairs will also form the path of travel to an exit, whether this be a non-fire isolated or fire isolated. The lift within a building is not required to form part of the exit path, hence limiting a person with a disability to exit a building in a dignified manner. The BCA has a focus on fire safety and the APS achieving dignified and equitable access yet the need to safely evacuate a building for a person with a disability has been left off the radar and placed into the “too hard basket.” The question is what would be dignified and equitable? Some argue that a safe area at the

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landing of a fire isolated stair would be acceptable, others are more for a specific ‘safe room’ where a person is left to be evacuated by a trained professional in the fire brigade. A price cannot be placed on a person life, but when it comes to changing the BCA and increasing a width, length, thickness of a wall there are a lot of parties that will object to the profit v’s cost margin. The argument being the cost of construction to the changes required for a building to meet the requirements of the deemed to satisfy. Hence if a landing to a stair was required to be increased for safe evacuation of a person with a disability, the argument is placed on the likelihood, the percentage of persons and the impact of cost. It can never be predicated the number of persons who may be working in a building with a disability, but the cost of construction can be estimated. As is the case that fire takes precedent over access, as it is not a one solution fits all outcome for the safe evacuation of a person with a disability.

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BRONZE ‘Corporate Sponsor’ Package includes the following: Use of ‘ACAA Bronze Sponsor’ logo on your website and advertising material (for financial members).

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