What Is an Area of Refuge?

Area of Refuge Systems 

An area of refuge, also known as an area of rescue assistance, is a place within a building where people can safely wait for rescue and call emergency responders for help.  
An area of refuge is part of U.S. federal law, enacted in 1990 as part of the Americans with Disabilities Act. It also is part of the International Building Code requirements for all new or change-of-use, multi-story buildings in nearly every state in the United States. 
In an emergency, stairways are the main way to escape a multi-story building. For those who are disabled, sick, or elderly, accessing the stairs may not be possible. What should they do? If they try to maneuver the stairs when they know they are unable, they put their safety and the safety of others at risk. If they don’t use the stairs, where do they go to stay safe, and how can they alert emergency responders to their location? 
An area of refuge protects many more than just those with disabilities. Even if occupants of the building can use the stairs, there are situations where escape via the stairway is no longer possible because there is a fire or other danger on a lower floor. 

Area of Refuge Requirements 

In general, there are several common requirements for a refuge area. 

  • It must be next to the emergency exit path. 

  • It doesn’t block others who are trying to get out. 

  • It has the same protection and fire rating as the stairwell. 

  • It is well labeled to direct people to its location. 

  • It has fresh, outside air to breathe. 

  • It is big enough for one or more wheelchairs, depending on the size of the building. 

  • It is equipped with a two-way communication system so those waiting can call emergency responders. 

When is an Area of Refuge Required? 

Does your multi-story building have an area of refuge? Should it? The only way to know for sure is to contact the Authority Having Jurisdiction in your municipality. 
If you need to install an area of refuge, it’s important to work with the right security provider. Look for providers who are: 

  • Licensed Fire Protection Engineers 

  • NICET-certified technicians 

  • Well-versed in local and national building codes 

At FSS Technologies, our installers and designers go through rigorous training programs to ensure that our security and fire safety systems are not only up-to-code, but also meets all of your business’s needs.  

Contact our friendly security and fire safety pros to schedule a consultation today. 

Contact Our Friendly Pros Today

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