Every building should be constructed, equipped, maintained and operated to avoid undue danger to life and safety of the occupants from fire, smoke, fumes or panic during the survival time available for escape.
Building Codes advocate the traditional evacuation by stairs in fire affected buildings upto three or four storey. All buildings which are 15 m in height or above, and all buildings used as educational, institutional, industrial, and buildings having an area more than 500 sq. m on each floor shall have a minimum of two staircases. They shall be of enclosed type : at least one of them shall be on external wall of the building and shall open directly to the place of safety. In taller buildings, fire lifts should be provided with emergency power supplies. In case of power failure, lifts and escalators tend to suddenly stop in between floors, trapping the occupants in the lift. Hence, lifts and escalators should not be considered as exits.
Safe exit for the occupants in a building on fire requires a safe path of escape from the fire in the shortest possible time. This path, which should be as short as possible should be ready for use in case of emergency. Provision of two separate means of exits for every floor, including basement, is a fundamental requirement.
Although builders and owners often establish their own requirements, the minimum Code requirements must be met. Features covered in these codes include structural design, fire protection, and means of egress, light, sanitation, and interior finish. A Building Code is recommendation that sets forth minimum requirements for design and construction of buildings and structures. These minimum requirements are established to protect the health and safety of society, and generally represent a compromise between optimum safety and economic feasibility.
The design of any buildings and the type of materials used in its construction are important factors in making the building fire resistant. A structure or structural element should be designed to possess an appropriate degree of resistance to flame penetration; heat transmission and failure. The fire resistance of a structural element is expressed in terms of time in hours it can withstand a fire of specified temperature. The reinforcement detailing should reflect the changing pattern of the structural section and ensure that both individual elements and the structure as a whole contain adequate support, ties, bonds and anchorages for the required fire resistance. Additional measures such as application of fire resistant false ceilings in tensile zone, should be adopted in case the nominal cover required exceeds 40 mm for beams and 35 mm for slabs.