Saving children’s lives

Protecting the lives of children when evacuating tall buildings is the aim of new research by Ferm Engineering.

CEO Steve Burton and engineer Wayne Blake presented a research poster on the topic to an International Association for Fire Safety Science virtual conference in late April.

Their paper defined a methodology for determining required safe egress time (RSET) standards for children and the disabled when exiting buildings higher than three storeys during fires or other disasters.

“Children can create significant time delays in getting people out of a building, which can impact on egress from upper floors,” Steve said.

Steve chairs a committee producing new guidelines for child care centres in tall buildings for the Society of Fire Safety (SFS), part of Engineers Australia.

Ferm’s paper says having child care, health and aged care facilities and schools in tall buildings creates new challenges for designers. Current RSET evacuation modelling does not demonstrate suitable fire safety levels for vulnerable occupants, especially those who rely on assisted egress or apparatus to move them.

Ferm developed the ‘waypoint’ approach for children, based on its research and observational testing, using full building evacuation drills.

“We identified that evacuating children is a process of events, not a flow, as it would be for adults evacuating. The children progress through movements and waypoints to achieve safe egress, with adults necessary to achieve a certain speed,” Steve said.

The proposed waypoint RSET model is based on behavioural studies of children in rehearsal evacuations, their interactions with adults, use of apparatus, like cots and mobility chairs, to move them, and the impact on adult-to-child ratios.

Ferm wants international organisations and the new Australian National Construction Code to adopt the SFS guidelines to keep children and other vulnerable people safe.

Ferm can help National Disability Insurance Scheme and child care projects meet fire safety requirements and state/territory regulations for evacuation procedures.