Area of refuge

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Control room cabinets at a coal power plant, opened up, revealing missing firestops

An area of refuge or safe room[1] is a place in a building designed to hold occupants during a fire or other emergency when evacuation may not be safe or possible. Occupants can wait there until rescued or relieved by firefighters.[1]

In some instances, an area of refuge or refuge area may refer to a designated space in a multi-unit residential building that can provide relief from unsafe or uncomfortable conditions in individual units.


People who use refuge areas may include:

Technical requirements[edit]

An area of refuge is typically supplied with a steady supply of fresh or filtered outside air. The ducting that must supply such fresh air is referred to as pressurisation ductwork. Such ductwork are items of passive fire protection, subject to fire testing, product certification, and listing and approval use and compliance. The idea is that the ductwork must remain operable even while exposed to fire for a duration stipulated for each occupancy by the local building code. The electrical equipment supplying power to such systems must also be equipped with approved circuit integrity measures. Both ventilation and power systems must have a demonstrable fire-resistance rating that is acceptable to the authority having jurisdiction.

Similar requirements apply to emergency lighting in areas of refuge. A two way communication system is required on each floor above or below the main floor in newly constructed facilities. A call box is required in each area of refuge, which can call into a central location called a base station. If the station is not attended 24 hours a day, the call must automatically call to an outside location and have two-way voice person to person communication capabilities.

Typical areas of refuge[edit]

Such locations are usually required to be bounded by fire-resistant walls and floors.

Other uses of refuge areas[edit]

In the context of climate change, where older buildings may not be designed for changing climate conditions, refuge spaces are sometimes discussed in terms of providing communal areas in multi-unit buildings for when temperature and air quality is not safe or comfortable in individual units.[3][4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Roberts (2005, p. 155)
  2. ^ Roberts (2005, p. 159)
  3. ^ Schünemann, Christoph; Olfert, Alfred; Schiela, David; Gruhler, Karin; Ortlepp, Regine (2020). "Mitigation and adaptation in multifamily housing: overheating and climate justice". Buildings & Cities. 1 (1): 36–55. Retrieved 13 July 2021.
  4. ^ "The Design Guide Supplement on Overheating and Air Quality" (PDF). BC Housing. p. 35. Retrieved 13 July 2021.


External links[edit]