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: http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/ 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.
October / November 2018