Accessibility and the Intelligent Egress System

New applications and integrations of existing technologies with fire protection/life safety systems could improve evacuation and rescue assistance for disabled persons. New accessibility and life safety features will likely be driven by innovation and a...


When installed, addressable smoke and heat detectors provide fire alarm monitoring systems with significant amounts of information regarding conditions in various parts of a building. The presence of heat and smoke are common conditions monitored by these detectors. An additional level of protection can be provided by intelligent detectors with embedded algorithms that further reduce detector response time by anticipating unfavorable developments within a building and promptly reporting these to the fire alarm panel. The combination of information provided by intelligent addressable detectors and the ability to locate occupants requiring special assistance is a powerful tool. These data points can converge to further close the gap on response times.

As was previously discussed, occupants attempting to egress a building often take the most direct route to an exit even though that route may not be the optimal choice. Similarly, if individuals knew they had viable exiting or rescue assistance alternatives they would likely act on those decisions in a manner that improved life safety. Moreover, they could take proactive measures before emergency responders arrived.

In emergencies, disabled persons seeking evacuation or rescue assistance could benefit from intelligent fire protection/life safety systems that employed features of distributed intelligence, dynamic observation, optimized and directed evacuation flows based upon building conditions, communications systems that tailor communications to the intended recipients' needs, and positioning information for the use of facilities personnel and emergency responders to locate them. These features would utilize technologies that currently exist and would leverage the life safety system capabilities currently provided in many buildings. The decision to move in this direction would be innovative and consistent with the trend towards the establishment of higher standards of care in the realm of accessibility and life safety.

Mark Budzinski, CBO, is a consultant of Rolf Jensen and Associates Inc., a global fire protection engineering consulting firm. He is a member of the National Fire Protection Association, the International Conference of Building Officials and an Associate of the American Institute of Architects.