Business owners and builders are required to put in place a secure exit strategy that patrons or the public can follow in the event of an emergency. Planning a good and easy to understand strategy will require consultation with government building codes and OH&S regulations. Some simple elements that any business can benefit from include exit lighting, emergency fire doors, clearly displayed maps and routes, a functioning alarm and glow-in-the-dark stair nosing.
Basically, any Class 6 building over 100m² requires at least one exit light, and there are specific rules depending on the size, number of rooms and number of exits as to how many are necessary. Class 6 covers most types of commercial properties, including shops, cafes and bars. As well as the exit light, you will need to consider additional emergency lighting that will ensure the quickest and safest part out of the building is always clearly accessible. Other buildings, such as Class 9a health facilities, require much more in the way of emergency lighting. In this case, every room with a floor space greater than 120m² requires its own lighting. The exact alterations vary widely across different building classes, and it is best to first consult building codes before double checking with a provider about your decisions.
When it comes to fire doors, most people immediately think of those red and white striped double doors with a push-bar which allow emergency evacuation from the building. The bar is designed to be operational by people with disabilities or severe burns to the hands. These are indeed a legal requirement, but a good fire safety strategy will also make use of fire doors which are designed to prevent the spread of fire and smoke within the building. They have a fire resistance rating and help with passive fire reduction. These doors may be alarmed, such that in the event of a fire or bomb threat the entire building is alerted, but never locked from the inside. This is an offence and extremely dangerous. If you are in a larger building, such as an office block, then you will need to consult with your neighbours regarding the current alarm and other safety systems in place.
Once you have installed all of these important features, you will want your customers or employees to be able to easily navigate the path to safety. Instructions must be especially overt and concise, as in a time of panic people do not think clearly or may forget previous training and common sense courses of action. As well as arranging a regular refresher course, combined with first aid and fire warden training, there should be a laminated copy of the building plan complete with exit pathways on display at all times.
Glow in the dark stair nosing can be of great help in times of need. As well as ensuring slips are minimised, by being bright yellow or silver, this material can help to guide the way out and alert users of steps ahead. Any additional lighting near floors or stairs is advisable for this situation. Examples include aisle lights for cinemas and theatres. A discrete light along the bottom of the wall can also be a tasteful yet safe choice. Protecting your stairs is especially important in an emergency, as patrons are prevented from using elevators. The staircase is the only option, and so should ideally be wide, with a central handrail so more people can safely use it at a time.