High Maintenance: CMMS and Evacuation Safety in High-Rise Buildings

Apr 30


Brandon Vincent

Brandon Vincent

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Evacuation safety in high rise buildings is something that is taken very seriously today. It is something that need to be well thought out and researched well before any steps are taken on the implementation process.


Over a decade later,High Maintenance: CMMS and Evacuation Safety in High-Rise Buildings Articles the tragedy of 9/11 can still be vividly recalled.  For three years nearly 200 investigators spent more than $40 million investigating the collapse of the World Trade Center towers, to issue recommendations to make high-rises safer in the event of an emergency.  The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) recommendations are extensive and include:

·       Improved building evacuation.

·       Improved emergency response.

·       Improved procedures and practices.

·       Continuing education and training.

As tragic as the events of 9/11 were, if the buildings had been fully occupied, it would’ve been much worse.  Had they been, the NIST estimates, due to insufficient stairwell capacity, it would’ve taken more than three hours to evacuate everyone, which would’ve resulted in 14,000 deaths.  The principal reason (and a core component of their improved evacuation recommendations) is that buildings are typically designed for full evacuation of the first floor only, with multiple floors evacuated one at a time in what’s known as a staged evacuation (which was how the World Trade Center towers were designed).

Among several recommendations for increasing egress rates, NIST recommended that “stairwells be marked with consistent signage, be located farther apart without increasing average travel distance and maintain their integrity under foreseeable building-specific or large-scale emergencies.” The recommendations that address egress signage (recommendations 18 and 26) were adopted into the International Code Council (ICC)'s International Building Code (IBC), which means that any building in the US must conduct thorough audits and adapt their signage accordingly, to be compliant with the new building codes. (Source: http://www.facilitiesnet.com/commercialofficefacilities/article/Safer-HighRises--3742)  As a result, in buildings over 75 feet, expanded luminous marking is now required to facilitate “rapid egress and full building evacuation” along exit paths, doors, and obstacles.  (Source: http://www.nist.gov/el/disasterstudies/wtc/upload/WTCRecommendationsStatusTable.pdf)

Keeping Up With the Codes

As islands of safety, for years, hospitals have been required to adhere to strict guidelines on evacuation egress and signage from the Joint Commission in order to retain their accreditation and are routinely audited.  Hospital clients of eMaint use their Computer Maintenance Management Software (CMMS), which integrates existing regulations, historical data, and current and potential future conditions, to produce preventative maintenance (PM) work orders that can be viewed online or remotely.  The new IBCs require that high-rises not only adopt but maintain proper exit signage and safety measures.  While some questioned the extent of the NIST recommendations, most agreed that the lesson of 9/11 was that emergency safety measures needed to be dramatically improved.  In the event of a catastrophe, be it fire, flood, earthquake, or some other event, where immediate evacuation is required, having every exit light working properly, all exit paths clearly lit, and evacuation instructions highly visible, is now not only a goal, it is a mandate that present and future high-rise owner/managers must comply with.