Incidents of fires in high-rise buildings have highlighted the difficulties faced by the fire fighters in handling the situation. Taking into consideration the danger posed to the lives of firefighters and building occupants, the fire department has worked out a rescue system for such structures.
The regular passenger elevator and fire elevator are not able to meet the requirements and physical conditions at the site where fire has taken place. Therefore, a different approach has been worked out to handle such situations.
An advisory from the Inspector of the Lifts office in Maharashtra, issued on July 22, 2022 for ‘Fire Evacuation Lifts for buildings having the height of 70 meters or above’ needs to be understood well by the stakeholders such as architects, developers and the elevator suppliers as it has implications for the building occupants in case of fire.
The fire evacuation lift is completely different from those normally used by the passengers. Fire lifts are an additional lift with a separate lift shaft for buildings having a height of 70 meters or above. The introduction of a fire evacuation lift is aimed to ensure that the lift services are available during any building fire and that maximum passengers can be evacuated in the minimum possible time.
While this would increase the construction and maintenance cost of high-rise buildings, one should consider the lives of the occupants that could be saved as a result. Some of the aspects that need to be ensured or confirmed:
The fire evacuation lift shaft should have minimum internal dimensions of 2300 mm x 2300mm.
All electrical cables should be fire retardant.
Separate source of electricity i. e. DG set should be provided for the fire evacuation lift.
Air pressurisation should be provided to maintain air pressurization of not less than 5 mm water gauge (WG) for the lift shaft and 2.5 mm WG for the lift lobby.
Lift landing shall be protected by 2 hrs fire-rated doors/ fire curtain.
It should have a mid-landing opening on all the floors.
Minimum passenger capacity depends upon the occupancy on each floor, building height, and evacuation time. The capacity and speed should be designed in such a way that it can evacuate a minimum of 100 passengers in 30 minutes.
Elevator cabin, car door, and landing doors should be of 2 hours fire rating.
The vision panel should be 250 x 250 mm in size and should have 2 hours fire rating.
An emergency fire evacuation switch should be provided at the ground floor/ evacuation floor/ lobby floor/ podium.
A two-way communication system should be provided in the cabin and one on every floor.
Two operating consoles must be provided, one in the car and another on the ground floor, and should be operated through a toggle switch.
The fire evacuation lift should have an internet of things (IOT) control panel, which should automatically provide notification to the building security room, register occupant, and nearest fire station in case of any fire.
The fire evacuation lift should have a trap door on the roof of the cabin for emergency evacuation.
A portable/ rope-type ladder shall be provided in the cabin for the passengers to come out of the cabin if required.
The landing door panels should have an overlap design so that fire is not transferred through panel joints.
An apron should be provided along the door frame so that fire does not enter into the elevator well.
It should be programmed in such a way that it collects the passengers from the topmost floor first or from the floor where the fire is reported.
Top 5 takeaways
The fire evacuation lift is in addition to regular passenger lifts and fire lifts.
It is compulsory for buildings having a height of 70 meters and above.
It should reach the topmost floor from the ground floor in one minute.
The lift cabin, doors, and cables should be fire-resistant for 2 hours.
It should have a separate power supply and the UPS backup for a minimum of 15 minutes of operation.
(The writer is an elevator auditor, founder of the Elevator Safety Forum India, plus an active member of the National Safety Council and Society for Reliability and Safety)