What is an Area of Refuge?

An area of refuge is a designated location within a building specially designed to hold people safely during an emergency. The area of refuge is set aside for situations when evacuation may not be possible or is otherwise unsafe.

For example, patients in a hospital may not be able to use a stairwell to exit the building when there is a fire. People can wait in the area of refuge safely until rescued by firefighters or emergency rescue teams. This area may also have the name “area of rescue assistance.”

Who may utilize an area of refuge?

  • Elderly people
  • People with disabilities
  • Hospital patients
  • Sick people
  • Very young children or infants
  • Operators in a critical facility who cannot leave their station (military base, power  station, prison)
  • Any person who cannot access an escape route
  • Any person assisting another person who is unable to escape
  • People on the upper floors of a building who cannot safely take stairs through lower levels where a fire is present


What is required to create an area of refuge?

  • Location adjacent to an emergency exit path
  • Signs designating where to go for shelter
  • A fire barrier for protection
  • Fresh air intake
  • Emergency lighting for power outages
  • A two-way voice communication system
  • Large enough for wheelchair accessibility
  • Located where it doesn’t block others trying to escape
  • In public buildings, it must exist on every floor above ground level


Communication systems for an area of refuge:

  • A two-way voice communication system
  • Call button for those awaiting rescue in an area of refuge
  • A confidence light to indicate an active call button
  • An acknowledgment light to show that someone at the central control point knows about the call for help

Related: Fire Alarm Testing

As a company that installs and maintains fire alarm systems in businesses and public buildings, Alarm Detection Systems has experience in setting up area of refuge communication systems. All ADS fire alarm systems meet the testing requirements from the National Fire Prevention Association.

Public buildings and high-rise buildings are usually required by local building codes to have an area of refuge on every floor above ground level. Alarm Detection Systems can help you meet local requirements and maintain your system on an ongoing basis.

Call 630.844.6322 to learn more about fire alarm and area of refuge systems. A live operator is ready to take your call, listen to your needs, and recommend an option that works best for you.