Safe evacuation – tall buildings, tower blocks: why Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans and Emergency Preparedness tools are essential

This continues the series on safe evacuation: what exactly does safe self-evacuation look like and on mass evacuation (tip: follow the ‘Safe Evacuation’ blog category). / post updated 11July2017

Skyscrapers, tall buildings, tower blocks – they’re not the same in many respects1 . Each fire is unique. Yet here I generalize, looking at it from a residents or visitors perspective which is not so different both today and in the past. The basic impact on people is the same: they need to


…and be able to receive it in a timely and effective manner…


Absolutely tragic (14June2017) #GrenfellTower, London


Are you a resident or visitor to tall buildings? Then knowing (not assuming you know!) the buildings (and your own!) fire plan and safe evacuation procedure is key ….


 … for consequences can be tragic as illustrated by the UK’s worst tower block fire  2013, Lakanal House in Camberwell which was caused by a faulty television set killing six people. A few years later a faulty tumble dryer caused a massive blaze in another tall building, this time in Shepherd’s Bush:

Thankfully no one was seriously hurt thanks to the quick action by the Fire and Rescue Services and campaigns are underway to identify hazardous goods and pull them off the market. Yet more could be done and that’s where promoting Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans and having the right preparedness tools comes in. This affects not just London; tall buildings are many in the UK and with many more to come. Sadly the above is now outdated as the worst disaster now is #GrenfellTower in Kensington and Chelsea, 13/14 June 2017.   

  While we wait for standards and regulations to change…..

Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans and Preparedness Tools make a lot of sense

Did you know that there are a lot of useful free templates out there that you can use to develop your own Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan? In the UK, by law such so called PEEPs must be issued by employers2  but they are equally useful irrespective of dis/ability.  Evacuation may happen because of security issues as well as ‘natural’ causes but for the moment let’s stay with the fire safety theme. Picture yourself on the 14th floor (or make that 42nd floor if you want or need to notch it up), there is a rapidly spreading fire and you must get to a place of safety but can’t take any lifts, there is smoke, alarms and sirens are going off and there are lots of other people (family, friends, neighbours, strangers), chaos and panic.

What are you going to do? How are you going to get out from a tall building and what do you need to do so safely?

Can you simply walk out or would an evacuation chair or a so called Patient Transport  Evacuation Sheet be useful? A home emergency kit  or so called GoBag you take with you is a good idea as is having a basic Home Fire Safety Pack as a minimum. Specialised first aid for burns is another key topic you will want to look at as it is not usually included in ‘regular’ first aid.  Don’t go overboard though and match the tools you chose to the skill set you have. Upgrading your first aid training is highly recommended as is actually practising your personal emergency evacuation plan. Dry runs are not only fun, but help you prepare in a very active way, showing you what works and what needs improving. After all, your life may depend on it.

Emergency Preparedness is the ultimate confidence builder and a race where all win. Start today! TallBuildingEvacuation_EVAQ8Have a great week and thanks for stopping by.


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1 terminology varies widely all depending on who you ask.  For example, the Emporis Standards Committee,, a leading database for building information worldwide, defines a high rise building as a multi-story structure between 35-100 meters tall and a skyscraper as a multi-story building with an architectural height of at least 100m. A tower block on the other hand can simply be a ‘tall modern building containing numerous floors of offices or flats according to the Cambridge English Dictionary Neither what happens to the underground portion of tall buildings nor the multi-purpose nature of many modern tall buildings and the respective challenges this produces  is  touched upon 2 if their Fire Safety and Health and Safety assessments have identified persons with special needs under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005

4 thoughts on “Safe evacuation – tall buildings, tower blocks: why Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans and Emergency Preparedness tools are essential

  1. Ines

    I live in a tower block and you really made me think here. Some very useful information to consider carefully. I will make my own plan and get some kit, that’s for sure.

  2. Trish

    I was looking for info on fires in tall buildings and fire safety when I came across your blog by surprise. How brilliant! You’re doing an excellent job raising awareness. Keep posting.

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