An area of refuge is a specific location within a building that’s designed to safely hold individuals during a disaster or emergency. This can be a room or a space which meets the fire safety code of its jurisdiction, and is constructed in a way that provides fresh air and two-way communication with emergency personnel via a two way communication system.
While an area of refuge protects people who are not able to safely escape on their own, the
two-way communication system provides rapid communication to alert first responders and help
individuals in distress. It is one of the most important aspects of a building’s fire and life
safety system. In public buildings, it must exist on every floor above ground level.
Operating similar to an intercom system, an area of refuge two-way communication system ensures that apartment buildings, schools, hospitals, commercial buildings and other public venues have a way for individuals to access help in the event of an emergency. These call stations are utilized during an emergency situation, such as a fire or tornado alert, when normal evacuation is unsafe or impossible, particularly for those with limited mobility. Let’s look at what a typical scenario would entail:
A fire alarm sounds in a multi-story apartment building. Bob is on the fourth floor, and is wheelchair bound. He will need assistance to make it out of the building safely. Bob heads to the area of refuge, goes to the call box, and presses the button on the call box for emergency help. He has now opened up an effective line of communication between his location and the fire command center or a central control location. The dispatcher will contact the needed authority and stay on the line with Bob until help arrives. The call box also has automatic telephone dial-out capability to a monitoring location or 911 dispatch.
The call box is required in each area of refuge. If the call station is not attended 24 hours a day, the call must automatically roll over to an outside location and have two-way voice person to person communication capabilities.
Typically located near a stairwell or elevator, the size of an Area of Refuge is determined by how many wheelchair spaces your building requires. One wheelchair space is a minimum of 30″ x 48″. Other requirements include:
Location adjacent to an emergency exit path
Contain signs designating where to go for shelter, including Braille lettering
Have a fire barrier for protection
Have a fresh air intake
Have emergency lighting for power outages
Be in a location that doesn’t block others trying to escape
In public buildings, it must exist on every floor above ground level
Maestro can help you meet the local requirements of your AHJ. Our vast experience and expert knowledge in the security, surveillance, and Emergency Responder Radio Communications field make us the ideal choice to seamlessly integrate the Area of Refuge into your multifamily design plans. We use and recommend Rath Communications Area of Refuge products. Rath provides top of the line products in this field and are a highly valued partner and source of continuing education for our team. Rath has over three decades of experience in connecting and protecting people. See their video featuring their Area of Refuge products here:
To learn more about how our Design/Build team can integrate an Area of Refuge into your building plans, click the Maestro link and we will provide you with a free estimate and a plan tailored to your unique needs.