Melbourne Emporio shopping centre, view inside the atrium area

A Recent Case Study

Whilst preparing this White Paper a similar event to the one that happened in the United States in 2005 occurred in the United Kingdom. On 17 August 2015 a 77 year old asthmatic pensioner with a disability was shopping in a large local clothing store when she heard the fire alarm.[1] The shopping centre was quickly evacuated due to a fire in a toilet block and the fire brigade arrived to extinguish the fire. By the time the lady arrived at the store front she found the security shutters were down and she was locked inside the store. She shouted for help, but none arrived, she then moved to the back of the store attempting to locate an exit she could use, to no avail. In the end she sat down and waited, for half an hour. Afterwards she was quoted as saying “It was as bit of an ordeal, it shook me up and I wasn’t myself afterwards, I couldn’t sleep at night.

Whilst the reasons for her delay in reaching the exit route are not clear, what is clear is that better emergency management planning and controls could have prevented this situation. Signage showing the accessible means of egress to the required exits would help a person locate the exit. Information, in the form of accessible, identifiable, and suitable sized signage could help people make better decisions.

[1] The Shields Gazette, Disabled pensioner left trapped behind shop shutters after fire evacuation at Hartlepool shopping centre,, viewed 13 September 2015

Buildings need exit and emergency signs to identify parts of the accessible means of egress. An Accessible Exit Sign Project Initiative.

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