Following on from my previous posts about the safety of participants in Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA) I thought I would again challenge the status quo of what is perceived to be permitted building classifications vs safe building classifications.
We already know based on the SDA price guide, building classifications 1a, 1b & 2 are permitted to house people with disability. But does everyone understand how quickly a home or apartment like this (without sprinklers) can be engulfed in a fire?
In the following video note the time the smoke alarm is activated, then how long until flashover is reached?
Now ask yourself. How many people within the Fully Accessible and High Physical Support categories would have been able to evacuate upon the activation of the smoke alarm?
Let’s compare aged care occupants and fully accessible/ high physical support SDA occupants and examine what they both have in common.
So why should Residential care buildings for people with disability not have the same controls and protection in place as for the aged? After all, you can’t provide supported accommodation for the aged in a class 1b or class 2 dwelling when they have very similar occupant profiles.
Residential care building means a Class 3, 9a* or 9c building which is a place of residence where 10% or more of persons who reside there need physical assistance in conducting their daily activities and to evacuate the building during an emergency (including any aged care building or residential aged care building) but does not include a hospital.
*9a is a hospital
Class 1a is one or more buildings, which together form a single dwelling including the following:
(a) A detached house.
(b) One of a group of two or more attached dwellings, each being a building, separated by a fire-resisting wall, including a row house, terrace house, town house or villa unit.
Class 1b — is one or more buildings which together constitute—
a boarding house, guest house, hostel or the like that—
(i) would ordinarily accommodate not more than 12 people; and
(ii) have a total area of all floors not more than 300 m2 (measured over the enclosing walls of the building or buildings); or
Class 2 — a building is a building containing two or more sole-occupancy units.
Each sole-occupancy unit in a Class 2 building is a separate dwelling.
A Class 3 — the building is a residential building providing long-term or transient accommodation for a number of unrelated persons, including the following:
Class 9c — a residential care building.
Whilst the Building Code of Australian includes requirements for emergency evacuation this disappointingly do not include any prescriptive requirements for people with disability.
However, as the BCA is performance-based life safety for people with disability is included, however, typically it is ignored by consultants involved with the delivery os SDA.
The performance requirements are as follows.
Exits must be provided from a building to allow occupants to evacuate safely, with their number, location and dimensions being appropriate to—
DP6 Paths of travel to exits
So that occupants can safely evacuate the building, paths of travel to exits must have dimensions appropriate to—
When reviewing the definition of a Residential care building, it is clear that participants within SDA accommodation would be well above the minimum 10% of persons who reside there that need physical assistance in conducting their daily activities and to evacuate.
Why it is, therefore, acceptable to place SDA supported accommodation participants in buildings that have classifications that are not Class 3 or 9c?
So my question to you is,
A few weeks ago I received the following questions by a building surveyor/ fire engineer from a client. This from my perspective was very impressive that a building professional would make such an effort to understand the implications of fire safety on SDA participants.
The following details my responses to the questions raised and are typical of questions I am often asked as I believe they provide a better understanding of the risks for all parties.
Whether they classified as “high physical support” or “fully accessible” makes no real difference for an upper floor evacuation, neither cohort can self-evacuate.
It would never be expected that an OOA would assist in an emergency evacuation. It is not part of their training nor part of the typical job description. Additionally, it takes a significant amount of time for an OOA to use a sling to hoist someone out of bed into a wheelchair chair/ evacuation chair. I do not consider this to be a viable option in a life safety scenario.
Understanding what SDA is the first criteria. The SDA price guide states
“SDA funding is only provided for participants who meet the eligibility criteria. Participants who meet the eligibility criteria will have an extreme functional impairment and/or very high support needs
Housing that has been designed to incorporate a high level of physical access provision for people with significant physical impairment.
Participants typically use a manual wheelchair
High Physical Support
Housing that has been designed to incorporate a high level of physical access provision for people with significant physical impairment and requiring very high levels of support. Participants typically use a motorised wheelchair or are fully assisted.
It is important to understand, not all participants have a cognitive disability, their disability may be solely physical.
All SDA participants based on the SDA price guide have an extreme functional impairment and/or very high support needs
My personal belief is the policy of evacuation for levels above ground and where an Evacuation Life on accordance with BCA DP7 has not been provided should be to wait in place for emergency services evacuation. This can be managed in two ways
On the basis participants have an extreme functional impairment and/or very high support needs Self-evacuation should not be considered as an option
From an evacuation perspective, there is very little difference in HPS & FA participant abilities when applied to evacuation.
Most HPS participants will use motorised chairs and due to chair weights incl batteries and motors, it is not possible to carry them downstairs.
If an incident happens at night participants will be in bed. Both HPS & FA participants will most likely not be able to self-transfer back onto their chairs.
The use of evacuation chairs by emergency personal should be seriously considered to mitigate the risk from carrying etc. Consideration should also be given to those on ventilators and how breathing assistance will be maintained during evaculife.com.au/product/evaculife-elite-evacuation-chair/
No, as participants have an extreme functional impairment and/or very high support needs
Participants on ventilators as above, however, most have a battery back up built-in. The other cohort where evacuation can have serious impacts is people with conditions like motor neurone disease, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)/ Lou Gehrig’s disease where if a participant is tilted back in a seated position like in an evacuation chair they will have serious issues in breathing.
OA can apply to all categories. It comes down to requirements of the individual and what is included within their NDIS plan. As an example, you may also have people that are deaf, vision impaired etc.
The maximum permitted is 1:10 This post explains the options in more detail https://www.accessarchitects.com.au/vista-access-architects-blog/what
Unlikely to be realistic in many cases. Dividing a floor into separate fire compartments, the use of fire isolation lifts presents the same issues as fire refuges as discussed above. How do you get the FA & HPS participant out of their bed, into their chair and out to the place of safety?
Building sprinklers add a lot to the fire safety design.
Carers assisting with evacuation must not be factored into the fire engineered solution. Carers provide care, that’s all.
The alert system should also factor in participants that are hard of hearing.
Qualifications to care, not assist with evacuation and should not be considered for that role.
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