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Evacuating from a high-rise office building

Photo: baphotte/iStockphoto

High-rise buildings can present unique safety challenges during emergencies. According to the National Fire Protection Association, these challenges include including longer wait times for help, fire department accessibility, smoke movement and fire control. In addition, workers must go down multiple sets of stairs to evacuate the building.

OSHA says employers whose locations include a high-rise building should do the following to help ensure safe employee evacuation in the event of an emergency:

  • Create an evacuation plan for the office, post it on every floor and regularly review it with employees. Designate meeting locations outside of the building for workers to gather. Ensure this area is a safe distance from the building, out of the way of emergency personnel.
  • Periodically conduct emergency evacuation drills.
  • Designate and train “floor wardens” who will be responsible for sounding alarms and helping other people evacuate.
  • Make sure exits, hallways and stairways are never blocked.
  • Regularly test your building’s emergency systems, including emergency lighting and communication systems.
  • Ensure workers with special needs or disabilities have assistance when evacuating.

Tips for workers in high-rises

Never use an elevator during an emergency, OSHA states. Re-enter your building after an evacuation only after given the all-clear by authorities. If you find yourself trapped in a high-rise building during an emergency, try to stay calm. Get to a room with an outside window and call for help on an office phone or cell phone.

Stuff clothing, towels or newspapers around the cracks in doors to help prevent smoke from entering the room. Stay where rescuers can see you, and wave a light-colored piece of clothing to attract attention. It may be helpful to open a window, but be prepared to shut it if smoke comes in.

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