Fire Alarms And Tall Buildings: How To Stay Safe

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On Feb. 23, at an apartment in Melbourne City, a false fire alarm caused hundreds of people to evacuate the building close to midnight. The building had more than 40 floors and so a lot of the residents found it difficult to climb down so many floors. Many of the residents had their children with them and it was a tough task for these residents. 

Mohammed, a 30-year-old resident of the building who stayed on the higher floors with his wife, said that it was tough to climb down so many floors and they weren't clear of any other way to evacuate. He added that even two days post the incident, his legs were aching. He also said that many of the residents with children were excessively tired as they walked down many floors through the emergency exit. 

Meg Rayner, Communications Advisor for the Metropolitan Fire and Emergency Services Board, said that in cases of tall buildings, based on the structure of the building, there was a protective area, usually halfway down the building. The protective areas were for those who were in wheelchairs and for parents along with their children. The protective rooms would offer protection for the people until the fire was put out. 

Rayner also said that most buildings had to keep the residents informed about evacuation procedures. She added that every floor would have an evacuation plan, so that the residents could refer to it, in such situations. 

She explained that dozens of calls came in for reporting a fire and a few of them did turn out to be false alarms. She had no particular report for this incident as she believed that it could have been a false alarm. 

In cases of fire alarms, lifts are out of bounds. Suny Akber, the principal architect of an Indian firm called Foaid Design Studio, told International Business Times Australia that lifts were out of bounds for a reason as they acted like fire shafts. He added that if anyone took the lifts in instances of fire, they would cook in the lifts.

Rayner echoed a similar message as Akber with regards to avoiding the usage of lifts. She said that it was not safe to take the lift as there was a chance of power going out and this could mean more trouble for those inside.

Akber explained that tall buildings usually came with safety rooms in every 5 floors. He said that this was done, so that people with disabilities did not have to climb down a large flight of stairs and could get to the closest safety room, which was on a side from where it was easy to rescue them.

He also said that it was recommended to get to the safety room rather than to climb down. He explained that the rooms came with a 4 hour fire rating system, so that one could be decently secure. He ended with the note that "what must happen will happen."

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