Is high-rise building evacuation different from other buildings?

Evacuating multiple floors of a high-rise building creates the cumulative effect of requiring great numbers of people to travel great vertical distances on stairs. In the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, for example, we learned that in some cases it took as long as 6-8 hours for occupants to successfully exit the buildings. The physical demands made on high-rise occupants exiting in stairwells can exceed their capabilities.

The fire and life safety systems installed in high-rise buildings today, including automatic fire sprinkler protection, are designed to control a fire and therefore lessen the need to evacuate all occupants. In a typical scenario, the occupants of the fire floor and the floors immediately above and below it should immediately use the exit stairs to descend to a floor level that is at least several floors below the fire floor, and await further instruction from safety officials. Remember, these building systems are designed to control a challenging fire; not one caused by a commercial airliner crashing into the building.

Show All Answers

1. Are building owners/operators required to hold regular emergency drills?
2. Are emergency instructions tailored to events and communicated to building occupants?
3. How can I judge if my building's evacuation plan is adequate for any emergency?
4. If I become trapped, should I break a window? Should I jump?
5. If I have a long stairwell, is it better to go to the roof?
6. If the neighboring high-rise is one fire, should my building evacuate?
7. Is high-rise building evacuation different from other buildings?
8. Procedures for people in wheelchairs or other disabilities that affect mobility?
9. Should my building have any type of exterior escape device?
10. Under what circumstances may I use the elevator safely?
11. What are the key elements of emergency preparedness?
12. What happens when the event is not typical?
13. Will the systems work in a terrorist attack?