Research Report on the STUVA Project "Measures for overcoming Emergency Situations encountered by the Disabled in Public Buildings"
The STUVA has completed the research project "Organisational and structural Measures to overcome Emergency Situations of physically and sensorically handicapped People in Tower Blocks and Public Buildings with a high Frequency of Visitors". The research results were published recently in the Frauenhofer IRB-Verlag.
The research project was aimed at arriving at greater consideration of the needs of handicapped persons in overcoming emergency situations thus climbing a further step in the ladder leading to holistic accessibility. In this connection economic and design-related demands (e.g. relating to protected buildings) have to be observed quite apart from the needs of other users.
The research project was sponsored by funds provided by the "Zukunft Bau" research initiative of the Federal Institute for Building, Urban and Regional Research at the Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Development (BMVBS). The project linked 2 sectors of topics, which have represented significant fields of research for the STUVA for many years:
• Considering the needs of disabled people in the spheres of planning, building and utilisation of buildings and
• Concepts for overcoming emergencies through structural and operational measures (especially fire protection)
Through the Disability Equality Act (Behindertengleichstellungsgesetz) the state has committed itself to ensuring that what it builds is accessible. However implementation of holistic principles on barrier-free planning and constructing in the case of federal buildings has so far only pursued the aim of making them accessible as part of the practice of everyday use. So far barrier-free use in cases of emergency has not been specifically dealt with.
If residents or other users of a building are restricted in their sensoric, cognitive or motoric capabilities, manifold problems can ensure should an emergency occur. There are certain groups of persons for example, who are incapable of responding to an alarm should it be sounded without special systems. Should certain harmful incidents occur, systems, which normally serve barrier-free accessibility, are possibly unavailable (e.g. lifts in the event of fire) thus calling for alternative evacuation routes or measures. Should these be lacking, the search for a suitable evacuation route or protective room can be life-threatening.
Within the scope of the investigation both structural and organisational measures were examined with regard to their suitability. As far as the structural measures were concerned, such things as marking evacuation and rescue routes taking the two-sense principle into account regarding the ability to locate and utilise emergency systems as well as innovative technical solutions, such as e.g. safety lifts, which can be used in the event of fire. Essentially first of all possibilities for self-rescue are to be targeted. Should self-rescue be impossible for technical, economic or individual reasons, then rescue by third parties must be resorted to or if need be organisational measures must compensate the lack of structural measures.