Tall Building Fire Escape Planning

Tall buildings, such as apartment buildings, high-rise corporate buildings and hotels have a variety of fire and safety risks. To remain safe after a fire has occurred in the building, it is important to have an evacuation plan in place that residents, customers, and guests understand what to do in a fire emergency, and that emergency exits are clearly marked.


The National Fire Protection Agency has a list of fire escape planning to use specifically for tall buildings, as the safety tips and escape routes are different from a traditional building structure.


  • Have an evacuation plan. With a tall building, one of the most significant safety risks is not having a way for everyone to get out. Develop an evacuation plan if there is a fire, and be sure everyone is aware of it. This plan should be posted in public places throughout the building, allowing each floor of the tall building a clearly marked fire exit. Every time a new tenant or business moves into the building, be sure to give them a tour of where to properly evacuate, how to find emergency instructions posted and where the fire extinguishers are.


  • Take the stairs. You should avoid taking the evaluator during a fire; the stairs are considered the safest way to exit the building. In the evacuation plan, be sure there are stairs available for each person in the building, and that they know to use this route during an emergency. Even if the elevator is working when the fire begins, it could stop at any time and is not advised to be used to escape the building during a fire. Tall buildings will have staircases that allow for safely exiting the building.


  • Conduct fire drills.  Have practice fire drills at least once a year (preferably more often) where you set off fire alarms and let people in the building practice how to get out safely. Have someone on each floor watching for possible mistakes, such as going to the wrong exit, attempting to use the elevator or not staying low where the smoke is less severe. It is also a good idea to conduct smaller fire drills on a more consistent basis, such as every few months.


  • Have the right equipment. Be sure every floor of the building has necessary equipment such as a fire extinguisher, sprinkler heads, fire hose reels and smoke detectors. Follow a regular maintenance schedule to be sure everything is up to code, new batteries are in the smoke detector and the extinguishers are working. Businesses and residents in the building should also know how to work their fire extinguishers properly.


  • Remember the basics. Remind residents and employees of the building of basic fire safety tips, including the “stop, drop and roll,” technique,  remaining low to the ground, and touching doors to see if they’re hot before entering or exiting. You should also know how to send a signal to firefighters as to which floor and room you are in the building; this could be anything from a light-color piece of clothing to a towel or a bedsheet. Anything you can hang out the window to let firefighters know where you are is beneficial.


Follow these safety precautions and you can exit a tall building safely. By having a plan ahead of time and keeping it posted, everyone in the building should be able to safely exit in an emergency situation. Of course, if you are a business property owner, make sure you are adequately covered with business property insurance in the event of a fire or other unforeseen event.