11 April 2019
In most circumstances, if a fire strategy incorporates the use of lifts for evacuation of disabled people, only modern firefighters’ lifts, or properly designed evacuation lifts, conforming to the recommendations of BS 9999, should be used. Even an old-style “fireman’s lift” would not normally be suitable as it would not, for example, incorporate the duplicate power supplies required in the case of a modern fire-fighting or firefighters’ lift. Similarly, normal passenger lifts, which are not designed for use during a fire in a building, will not normally be suitable for evacuation of disabled people, as they will not have the duplicate power supplies and appropriate communications facilities incorporated in firefighters’ lifts and evacuation lifts. In addition, they might be designed to return to ground and come out of service when the fire alarm system operates.
Nevertheless, there may be circumstances in which, on the basis of a risk assessment by a competent person with a sound understanding of the relevant aspects of lift technology, a normal passenger lift might be considered for evacuation of disabled people. This is acknowledged in BS 9999, which provides two good examples of circumstances in which a non-evacuation lift might be used for evacuation of disabled people.
The first example is that of a sprinklered building, with significant compartmentation or smoke control. The second example is that of a very large building, in which a non-evacuation lift, which is remote from an initial fire, might be usable for evacuation of disabled people.
A possible example of the second case described in BS 9999 is that of a multi-storey shopping mall. If there is a fire within one of the shops, it might well be the case that a normal passenger lift, located some considerable distance along the mall, would remain unaffected by the fire for a considerable period of time, so enabling disabled people evacuated from the shop of fire origin and the associated smoke control zone, to be evacuated to a lower mall, from where final exits can be reached.
The same principle might apply in, for example, sheltered housing, in which most fires will occur within flats, but these fires are unlikely to affect the power supplies to normal passenger lifts within the common parts, certainly in the early stages of the fire. Accordingly, NFCC guidance on fire safety in specialised housing notes that, based on a careful risk assessment that takes into account the likelihood of failure of power supplies to the lift, and entry of smoke into the lift shaft, normal passenger lifts might be used for evacuation of disabled people under the supervision of staff or the fire and rescue service.