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Planning Escape Routes From Your Buildings

Can you get out of your house if you need to?

Does your building have a fire escape, security bars on the windows, more than one exit door? We all spend our time thinking of increasing levels of crime and how to increase security around our home but it is important to balance the need for security with the ability to escape.

The balance between safety and security

We build high walls around us and put bars on our windows but inadvertently we could be creating serious problems possibly even a deathtrap for ourselves.

I always remember the story of a woman in a house in Australia who was terrified of intruders and had bars put on all the windows and doors of her house. One day someone got in, she couldn't get out, she didn't survive.

What if you have a fire? I was recently involved in a series of projects involving commercial buildings. When it came to fire escape the architects had totally missed one of the most basic requirements for commercial buildings. These were buildings with many rooms and corridors but only one external door. Additional doors had to be added at the other end of the buildings to allow for escape in case of fire.

This may lead us to consider how many of the hundreds of hotels and villas around the world have adequate fire escape arrangements. This is particulary relevant with the advent of air bnb and other house sharing accommodation arrangements where the normal commercial hotel safety regulations may or may not apply.

To return to the point it might be a good idea to take a close look around your house and at each room. Carefully consider all the risks that could happen - an intruder, a fire, a broken lock or handle, an earthquake, flood, run out of toothpaste or even a Tsunami.

Ask the question how would you get out if you had to? Consider the detail, a general plan might work but can be stopped by a single ill considered factor. Is there anything available that might be used to break the windows or lever a door open?

It is also important to consider full escape routes, you might be able to get out of a window but think about where it would lead. You don't want to find yourself trapped on a roof with a fire below you and you certainly don't want to find yourself trapped in a space such as a walled yard that you cannot get out of.

You might also consider the people that might have to get out. Disabled people, children or people who have eaten one or two too many cream buns (there are a lot of people like that around these days) might not be able to climb through a small window and that drop from the second floor onto concrete might not be survivable.

Copyright © Phil Wilson July 2014
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