Means of escape

Building features that are designed to allow people to get away from danger to a place of relative safety are given the name ‘means of escape’.  Buildings are often divided into compartments that are separated by fire resistant walls and doors.

The purpose of compartmentation is to restrict the spread of fire and smoke from one area to another.  As a result, people should only have to travel a short distance away from the fire (into the next compartment or protected route) to reach relative safety away from the fire and smoke.

Anyone with responsibility for undertaking fire risk assessments or fire safety inspections needs to understand how these fire control methods work in their building.

Escape routes

Wherever you stand in a building, you should be able to see at least one green sign showing wither the fire exit or the exit route.

These signs should be positioned above doors and where there is a change of direction or floor level.  Newer signs (that comply with EU directives) have no writing, just pictures and arrows.  Once everyone is out of the building it is important that the assembly point is clearly signed (this is also a green sign).

Internal fire doors

Internal fire doors with self-closing devices play a vital part in compartmentation, so it is important not to wedge them open (especially with fire extinguishers).  Some fire doors are designed to be held open by magnets.  To ensure that they will close automatically in the event of a fire, they need to be kept free from any obstructions and tested regularly.  All internal fire doors should also be labelled.  These signs are white squares with a blue inner circle stating that it is a fire door and should be kept shut.  A good fire door could hold a fire back for thirty minutes, enabling everyone to get to safety.


A wedged fire door is no longer a fire door.