Queen's University - Accessibility Guide - 22 Emergency Fire Preparedness
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22 Emergency Fire Preparedness   PDF version

22.1 General

This section is important for everyone  Emergency fire preparedness and evacuation planning is an integral part of providing a barrier-free environment for students and staff with disabilities. Clear corridors, appropriate emergency planning, training and visual alarms all contribute to a well-conceived plan.

Emergency egress should involve the provision of a safe and efficient system of communication and evacuation for all persons.

22.2 Egress Routes

This section is important for people with mobility impairments  Accessible routes serving any accessible space shall also serve as a means of egress for emergencies or connect to an accessible area of rescue assistance.

Egress routes shall meet minimum clear width requirements at all times. Corridors shall not be used to store refuse or supplies and shall be kept free of obstacles, as they can block required manoeuvring space and create tripping hazards for persons who are visually impaired. (See Section 2, General Requirements.)

22.2.1 All egress routes shall lead to exits that provide level access or are ramped. If some egress routes do not lead to an accessible exit door, the barrier-free path of travel should be marked with directional signage.

This section is important for people with visual impairments  22.2.2 A rough texture should be provided on the underside of handrails on exit level floors. (See Handrails 9.6e.)

22.3 Audio and Visual Alarms.

This section is important for people with hearing impairments  Audible emergency warnings, ie. the fire alarm or smoke alarm, do not alert persons with hearing impairments, therefore visual alarms or alternate communication devices are necessary.

This section describes an Ontario Building Code Requirement  Although the OBC requires that "in a building or portion thereof intended for use primarily by person with hearing impairments, visual signal appliances shall be installed in addition to audible signal appliances (OBC", visual alarms should be provided in all facilities where an employee or student who is deaf or hard of hearing may be located. All washrooms should be provided with visual alarms. Visual alarm signal appliances should be integrated into the building or facility alarm system. If single station audible alarms are provided then single station visual alarm signals should also be provided.

A vibrating beeper that can be used to warn a person with a hearing impairment in the event of an emergency can be used for employees or students as an alternative measure.

This section is important for people with hearing impairments  For new construction and renovation of existing facilities, visual signal appliances should be provided in buildings and facilities in each of the following areas: restrooms, general usage areas (e.g. meeting rooms), hallways, lobbies and any area for common use.

Flashing lights may trigger the onset of an epileptic seizure but the following specifications have been proven effective and were developed after extensive testing. Care must be taken, though, to avoid reflective lighting that may affect the flash rate.

This section is important for people with hearing impairments  22.3.1 Visual alarm signals shall have the following minimum photometric features:

a) the lamp shall be a xenon strobe type or equivalent;
b) the colour shall be clear or nominal white (i.e. unfiltered or clear filtered white light);
c) the maximum pulse duration shall be two-tenths of one second (0.2 seconds) with a maximum duty cycle of 40 percent. The pulse duration is defined as the time interval between initial and final points of 10 percent of maximum signal.
d) the intensity shall be a minimum of 75 candela; and
e) the flash rate shall be a minimum of 1 Hz and a maximum of 3 Hz.

22.3.2 The appliance shall be placed 2030 mm above the highest floor level within the space or 152 mm below the ceiling, whichever is lower.

22.3.3 In general, no place in any room or space required to have a visual signal appliance shall be more than 15 m from the signal (in the horizontal plane). In large rooms and spaces exceeding 30 m across, without obstructions 2 m above the finished floor, such as auditoriums, devices may be placed around the perimeter, spaced a maximum 30 m apart, in lieu of suspending appliances from the ceiling.

22.3.4 No place in common corridors or hallways in which visual alarm signalling appliances are required shall be more than 15 m from the signal.

22.4 Areas of Refuge


This section is important for people with mobility impairments  - An area of refuge provides a known place for firefighters to come to get persons unable to use stairs. It is a space that facilitates a safe delay of egress, is protected from fire conditions developing in the floor area and provides direct access to an exit or a firefighters' elevator.
- A firefighters' elevator is an elevator system designed for use by firefighters and others with firefighter supervision.
- An exit through a fire wall may be considered as equivalent to an area of refuge. Since areas of refuge provide temporary safety, it is important for the building management to have operating procedures in place that complement the building design features.
- The term "smoke protected" describes spaces that will contain not more than 1% by volume of contaminated air from the fire floor, during a 2 hour period after the start of a fire, assuming an outdoor temperature equal to the January design temperature on a 2% basis.

Signs along the normal route of egress should indicate the direction to the area of refuge.

An area of refuge could be an enlarged landing in an exit stair but the door should not encroach on the space for wheelchairs.

Areas of refuge shall be located in high buildings (OBC and should:

a) be provided in all buildings without accessible egress routes.
b) This section describes an Ontario Building Code Requirement   provide 1.5 m2 of floor space per non-ambulatory occupant (OBC with no fewer than two such spaces. Non-ambulatory occupants in areas of refuge should not obstruct egress;
c) be separated from the floor area by a fire separation having a fire-resistance rating at least equal to that required for an exit;
d) be served by an exit or a firefighters' elevator;
e) be designated as an area of refuge for persons with disabilities on the building plans and in the building (OBC;
f) smoke protected in buildings of more than three storeys;
g) served by a communication system; and
h) have a separate air supply.

22.5 Fire Protection Strategies

This section is important for people with mobility impairments  Where barrier-free access is incorporated above or below the first storey of a building, at least one of the following strategies should be considered to provide people with disabilities with an appropriate level of fire protection:

a) incorporate a sprinkler system (throughout the entire building),
b) incorporate a fire protected elevator, which is accessed from a suitable protected vestibule or corridor (NOTE: If the building is more than three storeys, the elevator must also be protected against smoke movement), or
c) divide each floor into at least two safety zones through the use of fire separations.
(Refer to Article of the Ontario Building Code for specific information on fire protection.)

Security and staff should be trained in disability awareness and communication techniques for fire safety for persons with disabilities.

22.6 Emergency Plans

This section is important for everyone  Signage displaying emergency egress routes and plans should be located in an obvious and accessible place in each building and should include a statement that emergency plans are available in alternate formats (and where they can be obtained). Alternate formats include large print, braille, computer disk or audio tape.

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