Life-saving evacuation lessons from 9/11

The 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center led to reshaping homeland security and the way we respond to a crisis.

The terrorist attacks didn’t stop architects from designing massive buildings…

But the tragedy of 9/11 did prompt important changes in the way these buildings are built.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology issued thirty recommendations. These were for changes to building standards and fire code.

Many of these changes focused on fire protection in buildings.

Another critical element was how people exit high-rise buildings during an emergency.

In fact, since 9/11, there have been over 40 buildings built around the world that are taller than the twin towers that have instituted the changes.

Considering this, here are a few tips that can help you evacuate a high-rise or buildings that we can learn from 9/11 and the changes the tragedy produced…


During the 9/11 attacks, 70% of people trying to evacuate the Twin Towers ran into crowds on the stairs.

One of the reasons this occurred was that the stairwells in the building were only 44 or 56 inches wide.

Now most stairwells in high-rise buildings are 50% wider than that.

Plus, emergency stairs in skyscrapers now feature glow-in-the-dark markings on the stairs, which are visible even if the power fails.

Cameras everywhere:

Another obstacle that first responders faced on 9/11 was the lack of real-time information.

The heroes who raced into the buildings couldn’t have known how bad things were.

This is why video monitoring of stairways and entrance and exit points has become crucial.

With cameras in stairways and elevators, first responders can tell people the fastest exit route.

This would help officials know how many people have been evacuated and how many are still in the building – think of these cameras as the black box of an airplane.

During the evacuation of the towers, many people were told not to evacuate.

But getting and listening to real time information that can help point you in the right direction.

Use elevators:

You’ve seen signs in buildings that say not to use elevators in an emergency.

But 16% of people who escaped the south tower did so using the elevators, and it’s estimated that the use of elevators saved over 3,000 lives.

Stairways were already crowded with people trying to evacuate.

But folks who moved slower or were disabled understandably jammed the stairways. No fault of their own, they avoided elevators like many others.

Now, International Building Codes require buildings to have an emergency elevator or an additional set of stairs.

Also, elevators are required to operate on backup power.

For the 110-story towers, it would take the average person 30 minutes to descend from top to bottom – obviously this can be done much quicker by elevator.

It’s recommended that in a high-rise building people on floors 10 or higher use an elevator if it’s safe to do so.

People below floor 10 should use stairs.

Since the early 1990’s, the elevator industry has opposed using elevators during a fire.

But with improved construction, reliable power, and elevator lobbies, this could be the safest way to get out.

The tragic events of 9/11 changed the world…

But when it comes to the advent of new safety measures in skyscrapers, the tragedy can doubtless be used saved future lives.

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