The Importance of a Fire Safety Plan in High Occupancy Buildings

Every residential and commercial building needs a fire safety plan to keep occupants safe in the event of an emergency. For high-occupancy buildings, the need for a fire safety plan only increases due to the sheer volume of people that need to be able to exit quickly.

No matter what type of building you are designing, whether it’s residential, commercial or in the hospitality industry, be sure to include a detailed fire safety plan to ensure the safe evacuation of the entire building in the event of an emergency.

Why Are Fire Safety Plans Important?

Many people believe that simply making sure that the exits are well marked and that fire alarms and smoke detectors are in place is enough, but there are several other elements that need to be in place to help ensure the safety of your building’s occupants.

A full fire safety plan, which includes maps of the nearest exits, well-lit exit signs, smoke curtains to help control the amount of smoke and more, is crucial in high-occupancy buildings. This is because, during a fire, panic can quickly take over. And the more people that are involved, the more confusion may set in as people quickly attempt to get to the nearest exit.

Some occupants may become confused or disoriented if there’s smoke. People not familiar with the layout of the building may have difficulty reaching the nearest exit in a timely way. Smoke or fire may block the nearest exit, which can mean that occupants need to travel further.

By implementing a full fire safety plan and making sure that it’s available and visible to all occupants, you can help ensure that there is less confusion and less chance of panic in the event of a fire.

Parts of a Fire Safety Plan

The best fire safety plans have multiple parts that cover a wide range of contingencies. This ensures the highest rate of safety for occupants.

The fire safety plan your building ultimately uses may be made up of any of these pieces. Fire safety plans should always be customized to the building to ensure the best fit.

Detailed Maps

Every high occupancy building should have detailed maps in easy to reach and read areas, indicating not only the closest exit but all exits and how to reach them. This way if occupants find that the nearest exit cannot be reached, they can still exit the building safely by using the next closest exit.

In some high occupancy buildings, it’s also becoming standard to place some maps low on the walls in hallways. In the event of a fire, occupants may need to get below any smoke. Having a map close to the ground eliminates confusion and helps occupants reach their destinations safely.

Emergency Lighting

Smoke can become thick in the event of a fire, making visibility difficult. For guests or occupants who don’t know the layout of the building well, they can quickly become confused and overwhelmed attempting to reach exits. Make sure that you have plenty of emergency lighting, which includes not only illuminating exits but also lights near the ground so that occupants attempting to get below the smoke can find their way easily.

Alarms and Sprinklers

Smoke alarms and sprinkler systems should be standard with every building. With a high occupancy building, you may need to install them at a greater frequency. With more alarms, which should have both visible and audible settings, more people will be able to react more quickly to the threat of fire and exit more quickly.

Smoke Curtains


Sprinkler systems are very useful in helping to control a fire, but they don’t do anything to stop the spread of smoke which, in some cases, may be more dangerous than the fire itself. Smoke curtains, however, do block smoke and help to reduce its spread.

Smoke curtains can be installed in areas where smoke typically travels quickly, such as elevator shafts, stairwell openings and open atriums. They deploy when smoke is detected, sealing off the area from the smoke.

If the smoke can’t travel from the area the fire began in, more people will be able to safely navigate their way out of the building with less panic and confusion. There will also be less damage to the building itself. Some smoke curtains can also block flames, which can further help control the fire in high occupancy buildings.

Create a Fire Safety Plan

No matter how high the occupancy of your building, it’s important to have a well thought out fire safety plan with many parts. The idea is to help occupants get out of the building as quickly and safely as possible to allow firefighters the chance to get in and put out the fire itself.

Detailed, well-placed maps, good lighting, and smoke curtains can all be a part of an effective fire safety plan. Get started on your fire safety plan today to help ensure the safety of everyone in your buildings in the event of a fire.

If you are interested in protecting your high occupancy building with smoke and fire curtains, we can help. Click here to talk to a Smoke Guard representative about the right curtains for your building today.