Museums are institutions that collect and exhibit rare and valuable paintings, artefacts and other historical items and which are visited by thousands of people each year. Because of this all precautions need to be taken to avoid a fire breaking out and if it does, to minimise danger to the art collections and life. As fires normally generate a state of panic and people present rush in any direction, large and clear fire exit signs need to be placed throughout the premises.
Some of the important signs displayed in museums are:
· Do not use elevators
· Evacuate – fire is out of control
· Follow Exit signs
· Walk at normal pace
· Wait outside the building till All Clear signal is given
People present when a fire erupts inside the museum and who make it safely outdoors, once the fire is under control they should help by reporting any missing persons.
All public buildings such as museums etc have to have emergency exits which lead to a safe place as directly as possible. Such escape routes should also be free from any obstructions. Fire exit doors should open easily in an outward direction, and the escape route should be well lit. If the lighting is poor, emergency lights should be provided so that any safety equipment to be used can be located easily. Some public buildings have fire doors as well as fire exit doors. The difference is that fire doors are designed to compartmentalise sections of the building if a fire erupts. They may not necessarily have a fire escape route. Whereas fire exit doors are made to allow people to make a fast and safe exit from the building in case of a fire breaking out.
Besides having the above fire exit signs and fire exit doors in place, management of public buildings such as museums etc. have to ensure that regular maintenance of all emergency exit hardware is done. They need to keep a check on exit device function, security of fixings, and component condition. Another important mechanism that could prove helpful if there is a fire situation is a hold-back device. This device helps the exit doors to be kept in open position letting people through easily. Special panic bars fixed on fire escape doors when pressed, help to release the door and help people to escape freely. There are also push bars which in normal circumstances are kept locked to prevent unauthorised access. Pressing on the push bar releases both the above mechanisms.
Many governments have laws stipulating that escape routes in public buildings need to have specific dimensions with regard to width. The width will depend on the number of people who might have to use such escape routes. If a building has more than one storey, people on the upper stories might not have access to an escape route. So escape routes on the lower level have to be large enough to accommodate several people at a time, and such routes should be clearly marked with fire exit signs.