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Evacuation Systems in High Rise Fires

Danielle Peskin

Abstract The objective of this paper is to evaluate the current methods and systems of high rise evacuation in the event of a fire. There are many human behaviors and outdated passive systems that are commonly overlooked and are leading to death and injury. The main goal of fire protection is to prevent against the loss of life, and the current systems are falling short of that goal. Since the World Trade Center terrorist attacks, many new approaches have been taken to update the evacuation systems of these buildings. This paper will not cover those attacks, but rather the shortcomings of current protection systems and how they can be improved to better prevent the loss of life. In a fire event, the major cause of death is not burns or structural collapse, but rather smoke inhalation. Existing protection and evacuation systems allow for the near free-flow of smoke throughout a building, posing a great risk to those who were originally in a location remote from the fire. Additionally, studies have proven that the majority of high rise occupants are unaware of the dangers smoke has on their health and life. With the review of the outdated methods and the explanation of more state-of-the-art methods this paper provides, hopefully lives can be saved from high rise fire events for years to come.
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Table of Contents
I. Introduction ......................................................................................................................................... 3 II. Smoke Hazards .................................................................................................................................... 3 III. Carbon Monoxide ............................................................................................................................... 4 IV. Human Behavior in Emergencies ........................................................................................................ 4 V. The Old Way ........................................................................................................................................ 5 Stairwell Pressurization ....................................................................................................................... 5 Locked Stairwells ................................................................................................................................. 5 Attack from Stairwells.......................................................................................................................... 6 VI. Case Studies ....................................................................................................................................... 6 Chicago Cook County Administration Building...................................................................................... 6 First Interstate Bank Building and Germany Airport ............................................................................. 7 North York, Ontario ............................................................................................................................. 7 Petronas Towers .................................................................................................................................. 8 VII. The New Way .................................................................................................................................... 8 Clearing the Attack Stairwell ................................................................................................................ 9 Communication ................................................................................................................................... 9 Areas of Refuge ................................................................................................................................. 10 Elevator Use ...................................................................................................................................... 10 VII. Analysis ........................................................................................................................................... 11 Purpose and Methodology................................................................................................................. 11 Set Up ............................................................................................................................................... 11 Design Decisions ............................................................................................................................ 11 Necessary Space per Floor and Stairwell Design ............................................................................. 12 Occupant Speed and Exit Capacity Assumptions ............................................................................ 12 Results............................................................................................................................................... 14 Full Evacuation Using Both Stairwells ............................................................................................. 14 Full Evacuation Using One Stairwell ................................................................................................... 15 Full Evacuation Using One Stairwell and Elevators ............................................................................. 17 Discussion ......................................................................................................................................... 20 IX. Conclusion ........................................................................................................................................ 21 X. References ........................................................................................................................................ 22

I. Introduction
According to a 2010 report produced by the National Fire Protection Association, there were 15,700 high rise fires between 2005 and 2009. With these events becoming such a prominent issue in the aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attacks, the protection and evacuation systems need to be updated to be sufficient at protecting from the loss of life. Most high rise buildings today are built structurally to withstand the effects of fire loading; however, they are not designed properly for the safe evacuation of all occupants. This report will outline everything currently done in high rise buildings during a fire including: human behavior, smoke hazards, carbon monoxide dangers, stairwell pressurization, locked stairwells, and attacking the fire from the stairwells. It will then go on to look at particular cases in the past where these practices and systems have caused deaths to building occupants and what could have been done instead. Finally, there will be the proposition of newer designs and ideas of how to safely and efficiently evacuate a high rise during a fire event. These ideas include having areas of refuge, the ability of elevator use during a fire, and ways to better communicate to occupants during a fire.

II. Smoke Hazards


Many people do not understand the threat smoke poses to their health. Smoke will adversely affect occupants trying to evacuate a building and smoke inhalation is the leading cause of death in fire events in the United States. According to an American Society for Heating, Refrigeration, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) Journal Article, the three major dangers of smoke during an evacuation process are the reduced oxygen levels, increased temperatures, and reduced visibility (Lougheed, 2001). The drop in oxygen levels will lead to suffocation while the reduced visibility will make it near impossible for someone unfamiliar with their surroundings to find their way out. Combining these two facts make the evacuation of the building unlikely. If someone cannot see and is unfamiliar with the building, they will not know which way to go. Therefore, they will be spending an increased amount of time in this building, prolonging their exposure to smoke. Since there is a reduced amount of oxygen in a smokefilled environment, it is now extremely likely this person will suffocate since they are unable to find their way out. Studies done by those who have experienced high rise fires show that most occupants are willing to evacuate through smoke-filled areas, even though it greatly endangers their life (Proulx, 1996). These same studies show that many of these occupants also do not understand the importance of sealing doors and vents to prevent smoke from entering a room, proving they do not understand the dangers of smoke.

III. Carbon Monoxide


Another great danger in high rise fires that is even more overlooked is the presence of carbon monoxide throughout the building. Many people understand that the safest route of evacuation from a high rise is the stairs; however, they do not understand that once these stairs become occupied by firefighters trying to extinguish the fire, they are a very dangerous place. The danger is especially prominent above the fire levels where gases such as carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide the most deadly two are likely to rise. The pressurization of the stairwells is supposed to aid these gases in rising to the top and out of the building, which almost never happens. Instead, one or two layers of carbon monoxide tend to form between the fire floor and the top of the building. The danger of carbon monoxide is that it is an odorless, colorless, tasteless gas that is extremely deadly in high quantities. During an evacuation, those who have not yet reached the fire floor would not know what is happening at the fire floor. Therefore, if firefighters have began extinguishing tactics, these occupants do not know that there is most likely carbon monoxide present in large quantities where they are at. Another danger comes with the common defend-in-place strategy of fighting high rise fires. In this strategy, floors above the fire floor are not evacuated, rather these occupants are told to just stay in place. Since carbon monoxide will rise to floors above the fire floor and stratify, the occupants that have been told to stay in place are now in great danger to carbon monoxide poisoning (Massey, 2011).

IV. Human Behavior in Emergencies


In an emergency situation, especially fires, humans react in a number of ways. Throughout life, people are exposed to the appropriate ways of acting in an emergency through fire and other emergency drills; however, this is rarely the actual reaction. Egress, or evacuation, studies have been done and three main behaviors have been observed. These behaviors are known as competitive, queuing, and herding behaviors. All three assume that exit signs are properly places within a visual range of the occupants and that the view of these exit signs is unobstructed. Competitive behavior of occupants also assumes that each person acts individually and will compete to exit the room or building. This behavior often causes blockages at the doorways. Queuing behavior assumes that the occupants will form and wait in neat and orderly lines to exit a room or building. These lines will allow the merging of other lines coming in from other parts of the building. All occupants in this case are able to exit safely, although not always very quickly. The last behavior is known as herding and assumes that occupants lose the ability to think for themselves in an emergency. This means that in a room equipped with multiple emergency exits, occupants are most likely to pick the one that is more crowded. Herding behavior obviously leads to large crowds and increased evacuation time (Stanford University, 2006*).
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V. The Old Way


The fashion with which many high rise structures are currently built is out dated, especially when it comes to the evacuation plans and systems. Many features are existent in these buildings that are wonderful in theory, but less than satisfactory in practice such as: stairwell pressurization, locked stairwells, and attacking from the stairwells.

Stairwell Pressurization
One of the most common types of passive fire protection systems in high rise buildings is stairwell pressurization. This assumes that during a fire event, all doors to the stairwell are shut from the bottom of the building to the top. At this time, industrial fans generally placed at the bottom of the stairwells turn on and begin to pump in clean, fresh air to the stairwell. Since this new addition of air has no where to go the doors are all shut a positive pressure begins to build within the stairwell. If one door from the stairwell is opened and there is smoke present on that floor, the positively pressured air from the stairwell will push the smoke away and allow the fleeing occupant to enter the stairwell without smoke following him or her. This is done to provide a smoke-free evacuation route for all occupants. During the design of this system, a few key points were overlooked. First, there will never be just one door to the stairwell open at a time during an emergency. Assuming a fire event happened in the middle of the day in an office building, occupants on every floor will be evacuating; therefore, many doors along the height of the building to the stairwells will be open at once. This produces a new demand for the fans to provide more air and they just do not have the capacity to do so. When this happens, the positive pressure within the stairwell is lost completely and smoke can and will enter the stairwell. Once in the stairwell, smoke will rise and become a threat to occupants throughout the entire building. Another problem is the actual positive pressure itself. Doors to a stairwell all open into the stairwell. If there is a positive pressure within the stairwell, those of a smaller stature or with a physical disability will not be able to open the door into the stairwell. These people will be unable to get into the smoke-free area the stairwells are supposed to provide, and most importantly, they will be unable to evacuate the building (Massey, 2005).

Locked Stairwells
During an emergency situation in a high rise, the doors from the stairwell back out onto the floors of the building are locked. This allows occupants to enter the stairwell, but not exit until they have reached the very bottom of the building. Locking of stairwell doors was introduced into high rises to attempt to ensure that no one exited the safety of the stairwell onto
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the fire floor unknowingly. In the case of a fire on the seventeenth floor of a building, an occupant fleeing from the 30th floor may be unaware of where the fire is in the building and that they will have to pass the fire floor to get to safety. In this situation, upon approaching the fire floor, the occupant will encounter increased temperatures and great amounts of smoke. They will not want to go back up the stairwell, but rather they will want to exit the stairwell and try another one. Many occupants are unaware that the doors to stairwells will be locked during an emergency and will find themselves in dangerous situations such as this hypothetical one (NRC, 2005).

Attack from Stairwells


In the United States, the most common place for firefighters to attach their fire hoses and attack the fire from is within the stairwell. Often times, the stairwell which the fire is being fought from is the very same stair which occupants are using to evacuate. Since the standpipe is located within the stairwell, and the fire is often on the floor and outside of the stairwell, the door to the stairwell is propped open so that it does not close on the hose. During an evacuation, occupants must pass by the fire floor, and thus this open door, to get out of the building. The open door allows the byproducts of the burning fire to enter the stairwell, no longer making it a safe route for evacuation (Klaene & Sanders, 2008).

VI. Case Studies


Looking back over past fire events can prove to be a very useful tool for preventing the loss of life during future fire events. Certain actions of the fires chosen below should be looked at closer to prevent the same mistakes from happening again.

Chicago Cook County Administration Building


Six people were killed and a dozen more injured in a fire on the 17th of October, 2003. It is commonly believed that these deaths can be attributed to a few serious problems in the passive protection systems within the building and the firefighting tactics used. The firefighters were attacking the fire from the same stairwell where many occupants were evacuating. Because the firefighters had the door to the stairwell propped open, the smoke was entering the stairwell which was then acting as a chimney. Those evacuating from the very top floors who had not yet reached the fire floor were exposed to mass amounts of smoke. Upon encountering the smoke, many people tried to flee this stairwell and use another one, only to find that the doors had locked behind them. They were stuck inside this stairwell with the smoke and carbon monoxide. Despite the signs provided on every stairwell door that read For security reasons this door must
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be kept closed and locked at all times, many occupants did not understand that these doors would lock behind them. Most assumed that they would all automatically unlock in the event of an emergency (Construction Innovation, 2005).

First Interstate Bank Building and Germany Airport


These were two unrelated events, but had unnecessary deaths of civilians due to the same causes. The fire of the First Interstate Bank Building in Los Angeles occurred on the 4th of May, 1988, while the fire in the airport in Germany occurred on the 11th of April, 1996. In the Los Angeles fire, one maintenance worker was killed when he took an elevator to the fire floor out of curiosity. In the airport fire, several people who had observed the fire from the roof of an adjacent parking garage had decided to take the elevator down and out to safety. When the elevator doors opened, the smoke had obscured the electric eye and the doors would not close again. These people were all then exposed to the smoke and seven people died of smoke inhalation. The electric eye is the door closing mechanism on an elevator. This is the same system that allows someone to stand in the doorway of an elevator to hold it open and wait for other people to load. All of these deaths can be attributed to the improper use of elevators during a fire event and the lack of education of the building occupants (Klaene & Sanders, 2008).

North York, Ontario


A fire in an apartment building occurred on the 6th of January, 1995 killing six people. All six of those people were found in the staircases between the 27th and 30th floors, most likely trying to escape to the roof. The major cause of these deaths is lack of knowledge by the building occupants; they were unaware that there was no stair access to the roof. Initial response to this fire was that it was not a serious situation. Over one-third of occupants felt that way, while only about half of that amount felt it was an extremely serious situation. During the evacuation, many of the fleeing occupants ran into a problem with smoke and were forced to change stairs. Many other problems were reported during the evacuation of this building: A couple people reported one of the doors to the staircases being locked, another person counteracted that report saying they were later able to use that door. The door in question is not fitted with a lock; those who could not open the door were most likely encountering one of the negative side effects of stairwell pressurization. Alarms throughout the building were not placed well or loud enough. Elderly occupants were unable to hear the alarms and therefore unable to evacuate in a timely manner.

Only minutes after the alarms sounded, both staircases were reported to be filled with smoke. This means that those occupants who did not make an immediate evacuation were less likely to make it out of the building alive. As time continued to go on, the smoke around the fifth floor (the floor the fire was on) was so bad evacuees were unable to pass and had to return to their units.

Lack of education and communication is mostly to blame for the problems experienced during this fire. All of the occupants who stayed in their unit and sealed their front door and vents were safe from the fire (Proulx, 1996)

Petronas Towers
The Petronas Towers in Malaysia were constructed with a very simple evacuation concept in mind. The designers figured that an emergency situation in one tower would essentially be independent from the other tower, and since the two were connected via a skywalk, both could be used for evacuation purposes. For example, if there was a fire in Tower 1, those located below the skywalk in Tower 1 would simply take the stairs all the way to the bottom and out, while those above the skywalk would take the stairs to the skywalk, cross over to Tower 2, and then continue down the stairs and out of the building. This evacuation plan was put in place to avoid congestion in the stairwell and decrease evacuation time. However, shortly after the September 11th terrorist attacks, there was a bomb threat received at the Towers that did not specify which tower in particular. This caused a complete evacuation of both towers, something that had not been considered in the design. All occupants of both structures were very aware of the evacuation plan and put it into place. In both towers, the levels below the skywalk cleared quickly and without a problem. However, those above the skywalk in Tower 1 descended to the skywalk and tried to cross to Tower 2, at the same time as those in Tower 2 were attempting to do the same thing. This caused mass congestion that took hours to sort out and the evacuation was extremely unsuccessful. A lack of planning for the worst possible scenario was to blame for this failure.

VII. The New Way


Newer ways of designing high rise evacuation systems have proven to be more effective. Many of these ideas came to be after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 on the World Trade Center towers in New York City, New York. Studies have found that by using elevators to assist in an evacuation along with providing safe places for occupants to be within a burning building have decreased the death rates seen in these events.

Clearing the Attack Stairwell


As previously discussed, by far one of the most dangerous places to be during a high rise fire is in the stairwell. Once firefighters begin to fight the fire, the door from the stairwell onto the fire floor is propped open so that the hoses do not get blocked, and smoke is free to enter the stairwell. A more effective approach to guiding a safe evacuation for all occupants is to not allow there to be anyone in the stairwell when this occurs. Since most high rises are equipped with more than one stairwell, in the event of a fire, one stairwell should be designated as the attack stair. This means that the other stairwell(s) will be used solely for evacuation purposes. When the fire crews begin to fight the fire, they will prop open the door to the attack stair while leaving the one to the evacuation stair closed. This keeps the evacuation stair free of the smoke and other dangers of the fire and provides occupants with a safe evacuation route (Massey, The Rebirth of the Rapid Ascent Team, Part 1, 2011). In order to accomplish the task of guiding every occupant to a single stairwell, communication methods during a fire need to be improved.

Communication
There are a few things that need to happen during a high rise fire to ensure that occupants are safely guided out of the building. The most important task at hand is to be able to effectively communicate with everyone. Upon a fire being detected in the building, an announcement system needs to be in place to notify all occupants that there is a fire. Next, there needs to be another announcement received by all occupants depending on what area of the building they are in. This second announcement will tell occupants where to go and what to do. During an emergency, occupants are very frantic and often very confused. While everyone practices fire drills, it is hard to be fully prepared for such an event. Therefore, by providing occupants with detailed and clear instructions throughout such an event, there will be less confusion and quicker evacuations. During these announcements, occupants will be told which stairwell is to be used for evacuation purposes and which stairwell is to be avoided. By the time fire crews arrive, all occupants should have begun to evacuate the building. The first team of firefighters will enter the building and make sure that the attack stair is clear of all occupants above the fire floor. This ensures that when they prop the door open and the smoke and carbon monoxide from the fire enter the stairwell and begin to rise, no occupants are exposed (Massey, The Rebirth of the Rapid Ascent Team, Part 1, 2011)

Areas of Refuge
Areas of refuge are a safe area in the building for occupants to rest during an evacuation or travel between stairwells. These are generally provided every 15-20 floors on a mechanical floor that does not usually house occupants. There are a few requirements for a safe area of refuge: It must be positively pressurized to keep the smoke out It must be located near, but completely separate from exit stairwells It must be air-conditioned for occupant comfort

These are places for those who can no longer physically continue with an evacuation to wait safely for rescue assistance. Buildings used to provide small areas of rescue assistance located within a stairwell for the same purpose. The problem with this method was that the occupants were taking up space within the exit route, which was slowing the entire evacuation process. Also, these occupants were exposed to high levels of smoke meaning that the place they were being told to wait for assistance was more dangerous than staying where they were.

Elevator Use
Most high-rise buildings today are equipped with express elevators that travel at higher speeds than normal elevators do. These can assist in speeding up an evacuation if designed and used properly. A few design criteria need to be considered: The elevator shafts must be made smoke-proof and have at least a 2 hour fire-resistance Elevators must be built using waterproof components so that they do not fail during an evacuation Shafts must be pressurized to the same pressure as the lobbies at which they stop In the event of a fire, elevators must still be controlled from a control room by an expert

If elevators are going to be used in an evacuation, there needs to be a complete redesigning of the evacuation. There needs to be a coupling of the use of elevators and refuge floors, since it is impossible to expect the elevator lobbies of every floor to be pressurized properly. It would be necessary to assign occupants in certain areas of the building to travel to a specific area of refuge and then have them take the elevator the rest of the way out of the building. In the case of the Petronas Towers, occupants located above the sky bridge are to use the elevator in case of a fire evacuation. This decreased the evacuation time down to just twenty minutes.

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VII. Analysis
Purpose and Methodology
Currently, the fastest way to evacuate a high-rise building is by using both stairwells, the problem with this is that is once the door from the fire floor to the stairwell is opened, smoke, carbon monoxide, and other hazardous materials can enter the stairwell and effect the evacuation of occupants. The next logical solution is to designate one stairwell as the attack stair and the other as the evacuation stair as previously discussed. This means that now all of the occupants throughout the entire building will be using just one stairwell to evacuate. It is much safer; however, it will take much too long to fully evacuate the building. Therefore, the ultimate solution to safely evacuate a high-rise structure during a fire event is to cooperatively use one stairwell and the elevators. The purpose of this analysis is to find the best balance of the two to safely evacuate in the shortest amount of time. The steps taken in this analysis are outlined below: 1. Create a hypothetical building 2. Calculate the evacuation time using a. Both stairwells b. One stairwell c. One stairwell and the elevators 3. Evaluate the evacuation times between all three methods for adequacy and safeness

Set Up
The first step in this analysis is to make some basic design decisions regarding the building and the number of occupants it will hold. Once that has been chosen, the size of the floors can be determined by following codes set forth by the NFPA along with the design of the stairwells and doorways. Finally, some assumptions need to be made about occupant speeds at different capacities and the exit capabilities at these speeds.

Design Decisions

The building will have 80 floors above grade. Floors 15, 30, 45, 60, and 75 will be mechanical floors (no regular occupants) All other floors will have a population density of 100 occupants per floor for a total building occupancy of 7,500 people. The use for this building will be of the business-type

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Necessary Space per Floor and Stairwell Design

Based on the above decision that the building will be used for a business setting, and following NFPA 101, each occupant needs to be provided with 100ft2 of gross space. This means that each floor must have at least 10,000ft2 of gross area. The stairwells of this building were also designed according to NFPA 101. Their specifications are as follows: Stairwells are 56 in width from wall to wall Level doors into stairwells are 36 in width Lobby exit doors from stairwells are 56 in width

It was decided that the stairs would be 6 in depth and 12 in width and there would be a landing halfway between floors. Floors were assumed to be 10 in height, and the stairwell was assumed to be 15 in length. Each landing was designed to be 2-6 in length, leaving 10 for the stairs themselves. For calculation purposes, the effective width of the stairwells and exit doors is necessary to know. Calculations for this are outlined below. Note that for the effective width of the stairwells, six inches were taken off of each side whereas for the doorways six inches total was taken. This is to account for the fact that there are handrails and un-usable space on each side of the stairwell.

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Table 1: Occupant speed as a function of available space

Space > 3ft2 2.5ft2 3ft2 2.32ft2 2.5ft2 2ft2 2.32ft2 < 2ft2

Speed (mph) 3.5 3 2.75 1.65 1

Speed (fpm) 308 264 242 145 88

Exit speed will be a factor of how much room each person has once inside the stairwell. In order to accurately assume how quickly people can exit, it must first be known how much area is within the stairwell. This calculation is shown below:

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Table 2: Occupants able to exit as a function of space

Space per Occupant >3ft2 2.5ft2 3ft2 2.32ft2 2.5ft2 2ft2 2.32ft2 <2ft2

Occupancy at Space 2897 people 3476 people 3746 people 4345 people >4345 people

# exiting per second 6 6 6 4 2

Results
This section will outline the total evacuation times for each of the three scenarios outlined in the purpose and methodology section. For this analysis, it was assumed that while on the main floor of the building, occupants were moving at a speed at or above 4mph and therefore entering the stairwell at a rate of about 7 occupants per floor per second. This was a constant rate until all occupants had entered the stairwell. The speed at which they exit, as discussed above, is a function of how many people are in the stairwell at that second. Tables throughout each section will display the time for all occupants to enter the stairwell(s), the time spent at each capacity/speed, and the time it takes to fully evacuate the building.
Full Evacuation Using Both Stairwells

For this analysis, it is assumed that exactly half of the occupants use each stairwell. Therefore, the time to evacuate the entire building is equal to the time it takes to evacuate half the population from the one stairwell. At no time did the area per occupant drop below 2.32ft2 ensuring that there was a constant outflow rate of 6 occupants per second. The total time it takes to evacuate all 7,500 occupants while using both stairwells was 10 minutes and 30 seconds. This of course is an ideal situation that does not account for the fact that occupants in at least one stairwell will be exposed to smoke and carbon monoxide which will inherently slow down the evacuation process. It may even begin to get so severe that several occupants are unable to evacuate at all. The tables below show the evacuation in more detail.

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Table 3: Two Stair Evacuation Details

Time Range 1-5 seconds 6 seconds 7-51 seconds 8 seconds 52-149 seconds 150-630 seconds 630 seconds

Area per Occupant >3ft2 2.5ft2 3ft2 2.32ft2 2.5ft2

Event

All occupants have entered the stairwell 2.5ft2 3ft2 >3ft2 Evacuation Complete

Table 4: Two Stairwell Evacuation Details Continued

Area per Occupant >3ft2 2.5ft2 3ft2 2.32ft2 2.5ft2 2ft2 2.32ft2 <2ft2

Total Time Spent 486 seconds 99 seconds 45 seconds 0 seconds 0 seconds

% of Evacuation Time 77.14% 15.71% 7.14% 0% 0%

Full Evacuation Using One Stairwell


Taking into account the dangers of traveling through a stairwell containing smoke, a better way to design an evacuation would be to use just one stairwell. However, high-rise buildings around the world are unable to redesign the size of the stairwells to account for the undoubtedly larger population they would need to house in an evacuation. The purpose of this section of the analysis is to display how this method of evacuation leads to much longer times and therefore longer exposure times to hazardous gases.

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Table 5: One Stairwell Evacuation Details

Time Range 1-5 seconds 6 seconds 7 seconds 8-1565 seconds 14 seconds 1566-1715 seconds

Area per Occupant >3ft2 2.5ft2 3ft2 2ft2 2.32ft2 <2ft2

Event

All occupants have entered the stairwell 2ft2 2.32ft2

1716-1760 seconds 2.32ft2 2.5ft2 1761-1857 seconds 1858-2339 seconds 2339 seconds 2.5ft2 3ft2 >3ft2 Evacuation Complete

Table 6: One Stairwell Evacuation Details Continued

Area per Occupant >3ft2 2.5ft2 3ft2 2.32ft2 2.5ft2 2ft2 2.32ft2 <2ft2

Total Time Spent 487 seconds 98 seconds 45 seconds 151 seconds 1558 seconds

% of Evacuation Time 20.82% 4.19% 1.92% 6.46% 66.61%

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Full Evacuation Using One Stairwell and Elevators


As displayed above, a full evacuation using just one stairwell will take almost 39 minutes, without accounting for smoke hazards and lower visibility levels. An evacuation this slow is unacceptable and new methods need to be considered. When incorporating the use of elevators, a few things need to be taken into account: Elevators cannot stop on every floor. The pressurization between the lobby and elevator shaft must be equal which is unattainable on every floor of a building. The use of areas of refuge/refuge floors becomes necessary in this situation

For this analysis, the building was split into six vertical sections separated by the refuge floors. Each section would evacuate down to the nearest lower area of refuge while the lowest section would just evacuate out of the building using the stairs. All six sections of the building will evacuate simultaneously although the evacuation of each section will be independent from the others; no occupant will need to cross from one section into the next and no two refuge floors will be dependent on the same elevator. The lowest section of the building has 13 floors to evacuate (2-14) using the stairs. The next four sections of the building each have 14 floors to evacuate between the refuge floors, and the highest section of the building would have 4 floors to evacuate. This analysis was based on the total time it will take to evacuate one of the four middle sections of the building to the refuge floor using the stairs since it will take the longest time.

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Table 7: One Stairwell and Elevator Evacuation Details

Time Range 1-5 seconds 6 seconds 7 seconds 8 seconds 9-302 seconds 15 seconds 303-343 seconds 344-355 seconds 356-372 seconds 373-458 seconds 458 seconds

Area per Occupant >3ft2 2.5ft2 3ft2 2.32ft2 2.5ft2 2ft2 2.32ft2 <2ft2

Event

All occupants have entered the stairwell 2ft2 2.32ft2 2.32ft2 2.5ft2 2.5ft2 3ft2 >3ft2 Evacuation Complete

Table 8: One Stairwell and Elevator Evacuation Details Continued

Area per Occupant >3ft2 2.5ft2 3ft2 2.32ft2 2.5ft2 2ft2 2.32ft2 <2ft2

Total Time Spent 91 seconds 18 seconds 13 seconds 42 seconds 294 seconds

% of Evacuation Time 19.87% 3.93% 2.84% 9.17% 64.19%

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The next step in this evacuation process is the elevator evacuation. The worlds fastest elevators are currently in the Taipei 101 and travel at speeds of 3314 feet per minute. For this analysis I will assume travel speeds of 2500 feet per minute for the elevators in this building and an average floor height of 10 feet per floor. The lobby floor will have a height of 20 feet. Greatest evacuation time will be either from the highest refuge floor or the second highest refuge floor, so the analysis will calculate those times. This is because it will take the elevators the greatest amount of time to reach the highest refuge floor; however, the second highest refuge floor has significantly more people to evacuate which means the elevators will need to take more trips. It is assumed that there will be: 50 elevators in the building 10 elevators assigned to each refuge floor Each elevator can hold 10 people per trip

The following calculation shows how long one round trip in the elevator will take to the highest refuge floor:

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Discussion
It is seen above that the shortest evacuation time is the full evacuation using both stairwells; however, it has also been discussed why this is the most unsafe way to evacuate a building. The difference between the two-stair evacuation and one-stair evacuation is approximately 28 minutes and 30 seconds, all of which is spent traveling at speeds less than 145 feet per minute. These slow speeds leave occupants in the building for much longer periods of time and smoke will eventually make its way into the evacuation route. The total 39 minute evacuation time using just one stairwell still does not account for the slowing of occupants due to these hazards. It is apparent from these calculations that a faster evacuation plan is necessary to ensure a safer exit for all occupants. By incorporating the use of elevators, it can be assumed that the longest evacuation time will take the total of stair use to the nearest lower refuge floor plus elevator use to the lobby. This time will be 17 minutes and 26 seconds. However, the use of stairs to travel to the refuge floor and the use of elevators to travel to the lobby do not need to be independent from one another. As occupants begin to reach the refuge floor, they can begin to evacuate by use of the elevators. This means that the total evacuation time can possibly be reduced back down to very near the evacuation time when both stairwells were used. The use of elevators provides the quickest and safest evacuation for all occupants. It can also be assumed that any time spent in a stairwell would be time exposed to smoke and other hazardous materials. The table below displays a comparison of the total evacuation time using the three methods and the amount of time occupants would be exposed to smoke.
Table 9: Comparison between Three Evacuation Methods

Type of Evacuation Both Stairwells One Stairwell One Stairwell and Elevators

Total Evacuation Time 630 seconds 2339 seconds 1046 seconds

Time Exposed to Smoke 630 seconds 2339 seconds 458 seconds

As previously mentioned, it is important to note that the 1046 seconds for the one stairwell and elevators evacuation is an extreme over-estimation. It is also very important to note that even though the final situation is not the fastest, it leaves the occupants exposed to smoke for the least amount of time.

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IX. Conclusion
As a result of the evaluation of current fire protection and evacuation systems and the review of past fire events, a few problems have become especially clear. There is a great need to educate the building occupants and update the systems currently in place. Possibly the greatest dangers to building occupants during a fire are smoke and smoke inhalation. Smoke causes reduced levels of visibility and often leads to suffocation. A lack of knowledge and understanding of the dangers related to smoke in a fire are proving to be a deadly issue. Carbon monoxide is also a commonly overlook byproduct of the flames. Once it enters the stairwells, it begins to rise to the floors far above the fire floor, putting many more people in danger. In addition, the passive protection systems and firefighting techniques are causing more issues. The pressurization of stairwells is fine in theory, but has serious flaws in practice. Instead of aiding in evacuation and decreasing the time it takes to exit a building, it sometimes does the exact opposite. When combined with the locked doors often found on stairwells, this problem is magnified. Occupants are commonly unaware that the doors out of the stairwell will be locked and encounter serious dangers during the evacuation. Since the fires are often fought from the stairwell, smoke commonly is found throughout the evacuation route and fleeing occupants cannot escape without experiencing some level of smoke inhalation. In addition to all of the technical downfalls of the current protection and evacuation systems, human behavior and response to these fire events only further amplifies the problem. Often unable to think for themselves, people become very dependent on what the crowd is doing and very competitive to get out of the building or room first. These systems desperately need to be reviewed and revised to better protect against the loss of life in a fire event. The best available revision available would be the incorporation of elevators into highrise evacuation plans. It is unsafe to allow occupants to travel in the same stairwell during an evacuation that firefighters will be attacking the fire from. This leaves only one stairwell available for all occupants to use to evacuate in some situations. By incorporating the use of elevators into a high-rise evacuation plan, occupants will be exposed to smoke for the least amount of time.

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X. References
IRC investigates fire that killed six office workers in Chicago. (2005, June). Retrieved February 7, 2012, from www.nrc-cnrc.gc.ca/eng/ibp/irc/ci/volume-10-n2-7.html Bukowski, R. W. (2010). International Application of Elevators for Fire Service Access and Occupant Egress in Fires. CTBUH(III). Klaene, B. J., & Sanders, R. E. (2008). Structural Firefighting Strategy and Tactics (Second ed.). Mississagua, Ontario: Jones and Bartlett. Law, K. H., Latombe, J.-C., & Dauber, K. (2006). Computational Modeling of Nonadaptive Crowd Behaviors for Egress Analysis. Retrieved February 7, 2012, from Stanford University: http://eil.stanford.edu/egress/ Lougheed, G. D., & Hadjisophocleous, G. V. (2001, June). Smoke hazards from fires in high places. ASHRAE, 43(6), 36-42. Massey, C. S. (2005, July). Understanding the Core (Part 2). Firehouse Magazine. Massey, C. S. (2011, March). The Rebirth of the Rapid Ascent Team, Part 1. Firehouse Magazine. Proulx, G. (1996, August 1). Critical factors in high-rise evacuations. Fire Prevention, 24-27.

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