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Keywords:

  • refuge area;
  • staging area;
  • multistorey building;
  • evacuation;
  • disability;
  • end users' perspective;
  • vertical evacuation

Summary

Refuge areas have been utilized for some time in multistorey buildings as an integral part of evacuation strategies for those with mobility impairments. Nevertheless, there has been little research on the level of understanding of what a refuge is, nor on the views or concerns of users in the event of an emergency. This paper reports on a study to determine the knowledge and concerns that people with reduced mobility have regarding refuges, and their willingness to use them. Results indicated that almost half of the sample who ‘could not’ or ‘would find it difficult’ to descend one storey had little or no knowledge of a refuge. Having been made aware of what a refuge was and how it might be used, over three-quarters of respondents said they would be prepared to use it. Nevertheless, 60% of respondents felt that they would not be comfortable remaining in a refuge for more than 10 min without assistance. Major concerns were ‘being forgotten’, ‘lack of information/ communication on the waiting time prior to assistance arriving’, and ‘being left alone’. This paper also identifies how confidence to remain in a refuge may be increased and explores awareness and feelings regarding vertical evacuation options. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.