Think twice when installing your fire assembly point sign
When it comes to marking out fire exit route signage, many people assume the Assembly Point sign is the easy bit. This is not always the case!
In the 1990s a fire took hold of a building in the South West of England. Thankfully, the alarm was quickly raised and all staff and visitors evacuated swiftly and in good order. With the fire alarm sounding courtesy of a burning piece of toast, the problems only really began when the Fire Brigade actually arrived!
In the Brigade’s commendable speed to attend what could well have been a major incident, the fire engine came around the corner and through the gates. Despite slowing considerably and appropriately, the brigade was then immediately confronted by staff who had gathered at their pre-defined and marked fire assembly point. Ultimately the fire engine ended up striking two members of staff.
Thankfully neither was seriously injured. However this one incident does raise some serious questions about the best place to site a fire assembly point sign. When it comes to the correct positioning of this safety sign, the general rule of thumb is it must be positioned a distance equal to twice the height of the building. So, if a two storey building is 8 metres high, the assembly point must be 16 metres away from the building.
Assuming that the building has the ground space (which many do not!), the person locating the sign is often happy to be able to affix it anywhere they can. Frequently this will mean attaching the sign to a convenient wall or fence, regardless of its position. However, as we know from the incident detailed above, putting the fire assembly point sign somewhere convenient is not always good enough. It must be in a place of relative safety away from where the fire brigade and other emergency services will be looking to pass through.
To emphasise the difficulties faced, the following photograph was taken by this author whilst lost (once again!) in the Midlands. As the car was manoeuvred to go back up the street I had just come down, I reversed into this driveway. Here I was confronted with this sign:
As this driveway was the only way into this business premises, the sign could not be more wrong if it was positioned there intentionally! The problems with this are:
- It is the wrong colour. As this is a safe condition sign it should be green.
- It has the wrong text on it. The fire point sign denotes fire fighting equipment (eg fire extinguishers)
- It is the wrong image. As a safe condition sign, it should have either a tick or a group of people as recommended by BS5499 and ISO 7010
- It is not facing the building itself. Ideally it should be easily seen from a distance by the evacuees.
- It is positioned by the gate…the only way into and out of the premises, putting the staff at risk in the way mentioned previously
In conclusion, whilst Assembly points signs are not usually as difficult to locate correctly as fire exit signs, the issues raised above should always be borne in mind.
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