Don't Ignore The Stats

High rise dwellers and occupants have a more serious challenge than residents of low rise buildings when an emergency situation arises. Challenges range from longer evacuation time, smoke movement, first responders accessibility, fire control, and more. Between 2007 and 2011 there were an estimated 15,400 fires reported in high rise structures per year. These resulted in 46 civilian deaths, 530 civilian injuries, and $219 million in property damage, again, per year. If you are a resident or occupant of a high rise, you need to be prepared in case of an emergency. You need an action emergency plan. Due to the multitude of possible emergencies, as well as a slew of factors that can affect said emergencies, it is impossible to be ready for EVERYTHING, but you should definitely try to cover as many bases as humanly possible.

Check out the NFPA’s high rise evacuation video:

There are many possible emergencies that can happen in a high rise, whether human-caused, natural disasters, or building related. The following is a list that the National Fire Protection Agency provides for those categories:


  1. Bombs/Bomb Threats
  2. Weapons of Mass Destruction (Chemical, Biological, and Nuclear)
  3. Workplace Violence

Building Related

    1. System Failures
    2. Elevator Issues
    3. Emergency Power Systems
    4. Flooding
    5. Medical Emergency
    6. Disruption of Utilities
    7. A Fire In An Adjacent Building

Natural Disasters

  1. Earthquakes
  2. Hurricanes
  3. Tornadoes
  4. Tsunamis
  5. Volcanoes
  6. Flash Floods
  7. Snow and Ice Storms
  8. Extreme Heat

In emergency situations such as these, generally the first step would be to contact the proper authorities. While you are waiting for them to arrive, things can escalate. This is where an action emergency plan comes in. Evacuating the building should be the next course of action. There are times however where it is more dangerous to attempt evacuation then to stay put. In such cases, it is best to stay where you are. Partial evacuation is when occupants of some floors leave the building while other remain. This could be either due to the emergency being located on a specific floor or due to it being more dangerous to attempt evacuation for certain floors than to stay put. Total evacuation is a managed or controlled evacuation of the entire building.

In a remain-in-place situation, your action emergency plan should set forth actions that would be taken in regard to the following systems:

  1. Entrances, Exits, and Stairwells
  2. Elevators
  3. Ventilation Systems
  4. Windows
  5. Interior Doors
  6. Utilities
  7. Fuel Storage Systems (Including Piping and Pumps)

SkySaver Rescue Backpack

In this situation, you may not find a way out, and the first-responders might not reach you in time. This is the exact situation where a SkySaver rescue backpack can and should be used. Within a few minutes, you can be safely on the ground, out of harm’s way. If you own a SkySaver and live or work in a high rise building, it should become an integral part of your emergency action plan. However, it should only be used as a last resort.

In a situation where you must relocate to a different area of the building, the following steps should be taken for an in-building relocation area:

  1. Know the number of residents on each floor
  2. For each in-building relocation area, know: the type of area, the floor and its exact location, what protection it offers, max occupation, and what facilities it has.
  3. Designate possible routes to the area.
  4. With respect to the building systems, set forth actions to be taken.
  5. Procedures for accounting for employees after the relocation is complete.

A partial or total evacuation should be done when such action would provide safety for the building’s residents. The emergency action plan for such, would begin with identifying the most efficient means of evacuating people from the building and specific floors, giving priority to people closest to harm’s way. The following steps should be taken:

  1. Know the number of residents on each floor, including possible number of visitors.
  2. Identify the exits.
  3. With respect to the building systems, set forth actions to be taken.
  4. The following should be designated by the emergency action plan: primary and alternative exits, safe assembly areas for the building occupants, and the procedure for accounting for everyone once the evacuation is complete.

When accounting for all of the building’s occupants, missing persons must be reported to the authorities. An investigation of the root cause of any problems which occurred during the emergency should be conducted so no similar issues arise in the future.

The emergency action plan should account for people with disabilities as well. It should address the following:

  1. Wheelchair Users
  2. Respiratory Impairments
  3. Ambulatory Impairments
  4. Visual Impairments
  5. Hearing Impairments
  6. Speech Impairments
  7. Cognitive Impairments

In addition, the plan should include reoccupying the building after the “all-clear” has been given. Conducting drills is a great way to stay on top of things and be prepared when an emergency actually happens. Once an emergency action plan has been accepted by the building manager and tenants of the building, two drills should be conducted annually for the first two years afterwards. Beginning in the third year, a drill should be conducted on each floor of the building at least one time per year.

For more information about emergency evacuation plans, go to:

Barak Bacharach, SkySaver Content Manager