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Firefighting Lifts explained - the ins and outs.


EN81-72 is a standard which governs lifts for use by firefighters in emergency situations. A fire fighters lift is defined as a lift installed primarily intended for passengers use which has additional protection, controls and signals, which enable it to be used under the direct control of the fire service.

Firefighting shafts are provided in larger buildings to help firefighters reach floors further away from the building’s main access point. They enable fire fighting operations to start quickly and in comparative safety by providing a safe route from the point of entry to the floor where the fire has occurred.

BS EN 81 discusses safety rules for the construction and installation of lifts. BS EN 81-72 specifies the additional or deviating requirements to EN 81-20:2020 for new passenger and goods passenger lifts, which can be used for firefighting and evacuation purposes under firefighters’ control.

What are Firefighter Lifts?

Fire lifts, designed explicitly for use during emergencies such as fires, serve as vital tools for fire service personnel. These specialised elevators facilitate swift access to various floors, minimising response times crucial for effective firefighting operations. Adhering to rigorous standards, such as EN81-72, fire lifts ensure rapid traversal between floors, with a mandated limit of 60 seconds for travel from the lowest to the highest floor within a 200-meter range.

Primarily utilised to transport firefighters and their equipment swiftly, firefighting lifts play a pivotal role in accessing required floors during emergencies. Their necessity arises in buildings where the highest floor is over 18 meters above the main fire service access level or where the depth of the lowest floor exceeds 10 meters. Moreover, additional firefighting lifts are mandated for structures with expansive floor areas exceeding 900 square meters or as stipulated by specific development requirements.

These lifts are strategically positioned to facilitate the expedited arrival of firefighters equipped with necessary gear and additional personnel to combat fires effectively. It’s important to note that lifts designated for firefighting purposes serve a distinct function from evacuation lifts, emphasising the critical distinction between emergency response and evacuation protocols.

Importance of Firefighter Lifts in Emergency Response:

In contrast to conventional passenger lifts, firefighter lifts are meticulously engineered to remain operational for as long as feasible during a building fire. Their paramount purpose lies in swiftly ferrying firefighters and their equipment to their required floors, minimising response time and exertion. Additionally, they can serve as a crucial means to aid in the evacuation of individuals with limited mobility.

It’s imperative to note that any lifts lacking compliance with EN81-72 standards will be inaccessible to the fire service. Consequently, the absence of a firefighting lift in a building mandated to have one renders the structure non-compliant. These lifts are indispensable components of a building’s fire safety strategy when stipulated.

Understanding BS EN 81-72:

BS EN 81-72 serves as a comprehensive guide and set of requirements, it also outlines significant hazards, hazardous situations, and events relevant to a firefighters lift when they are used as intended and under the conditions as foreseen by the installer. This standard delineates fundamental requirements essential for the proper functioning of firefighter lifts.

Firefighting lifts may contain many of the same features as an evacuation lift, they serve distinct purposes. It’s important to understand that while both types of lifts may facilitate the evacuation of occupants, firefighting lifts do not preclude the fire and rescue service from evacuating disabled or impaired individuals when necessary.

Firefighting Lifts or Evacuation Lifts are often referred to as Fire Evacuation, these are two different types of lifts and must meet distinct performance criteria and comply with different standards. It’s imperative to verify compliance with specific standards to ensure appropriate lift performance.

It’s critical to note that firefighting lifts should not be utilised for evacuating individuals as part of Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans (PEEPs). This restriction is due to the necessity for these lifts to be operated under the direct control of the fire safety manager or a designated representative during emergency situations.

Firefighting lifts deviate from standard passenger lifts in various aspects, including the design of the lift car, lift well, machinery space, control system, and communication system. These differences are essential to meet the stringent safety requirements unique to firefighting lifts. Merely having firefighting controls within a lift does not automatically designate it as a firefighting lift, underscoring the importance of adherence to specific safety standards and regulations.

Key Requirements and Features of Firefighter Lifts:

BS EN 81-72 serves as a comprehensive guide, detailing crucial aspects such as power supplies, control system configuration, lift machinery, associated equipment, entrances, and building reinforcements necessary for a lift to function effectively in fire situations.

The requirements for firefighter lifts encompass additional safety features essential for enabling access by fire services, provided the lift shaft remains unobstructed. These differentiating features include:

A minimum rated load of 630kg is required for firefighter lifts, except when designated for evacuation purposes, where the minimum load is increased to 1000kg, with a specified cabin size of 1100mm x 2100mm.

All electrical equipment within the lift must be safeguarded against water ingress to different IP ratings depending on the location of the electrical component.

Measures are also required to limit water ingress into the shaft, these include raising door thresholds or installing drainage trays in front of lift doors, along with the consideration of a sump pump in the pit area.

The minimum dimensions for a firefighter lift are set at 1100mm x 1400mm, with a door opening width of no less than 800mm. However, it’s worth noting that the current standard for wheelchair-accessible lift doors in the UK is 900mm wide.

The minimum dimensions for a firefighter lift are set at 1100mm x 1400mm, with a door opening width of no less than 800mm. However, it’s worth noting that the current standard for wheelchair-accessible lift doors in the UK is 900mm wide.

A firefighter lift is equipped with a trap door in the cabin roof and ladders for emergency escape and rescue.

Effective communication between the cabin and Fire Service Access Level (FSAL) is essential.

These lifts are exclusively designated for emergency service use and cannot be utilised for the transportation of goods or waste materials to ensure they are fit for us in an emergency.

The lift must be capable of reaching the top floor within 60 seconds, within a distance of up to 200m.

A secondary power source, typically supplied by a backup generator, is mandatory for firefighter lifts in the event of a fire. This power supply must be separate from the main source, necessitating the use of a separate sub-station if relying on mains power.

The lift well and environment must be fire-protected to at least the same level as the building structure.

Operational Mechanism of Firefighter Lifts:

A fire-fighting lift is meticulously engineered to function as a conventional passenger lift under normal circumstances. However, upon the activation of the fire alarm, it undergoes a swift transition. The lift descends to the ground floor and is rendered out of service. The fire service can then reactivate the lift via a designated fire-fighting switch. This switch grants firefighters exclusive access and full control of the lift, enabling them to navigate swiftly and efficiently through the building.

In this fire mode, the lift prioritises the safety and expediency of firefighting operations above all else. It disregards any other inputs, ensuring a “run at all costs” operation tailored specifically for the fire services.

To guarantee uninterrupted functionality during emergencies, the lift is equipped with an additional and separate Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS) independent of the general building supply. This secondary power source, whether sourced from a battery backup, separate mains supply or generator, seamlessly kicks in the moment the main power supply is disrupted by the fire safety systems, ensuring continuous operation when it’s needed most.

In Summary:

In conclusion, EN81-72 stands as a critical standard governing the design, construction, and operation of firefighter lifts, essential tools for emergency response in buildings. These lifts, equipped with additional safety features and controls, play a pivotal role in facilitating swift access for firefighters during fire incidents.

Firefighter lifts are strategically positioned in larger buildings to enable rapid and safe deployment of firefighting personnel and equipment to floors distant from the building’s main access point. Compliance with BS EN 81-72 ensures that these lifts meet stringent safety requirements, including protection against water ingress, appropriate size and dimensions, and operational mechanisms tailored for emergency response.

Distinct from conventional passenger lifts, firefighter lifts are engineered to prioritise the safety and efficiency of firefighting operations. They are equipped with features such as trap doors, communication systems, and emergency power supplies to ensure seamless operation during emergencies.

Understanding the nuances of BS EN 81-72 and the key requirements and features of firefighter lifts is essential for ensuring compliance and enhancing the effectiveness of emergency response strategies in buildings. By adhering to these standards and implementing appropriate safety measures, buildings can better prepare for and mitigate the impact of fire incidents, safeguarding both occupants and property.

If you are considering the installation of a firefighting lift in your building, our team of experts at Morris Vermaport is here to assist you every step of the way. With our extensive experience and commitment to safety, we can help you navigate the complexities of compliance with BS EN 81-72 and ensure that your firefighting lift meets the highest standards of quality and reliability. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us at 03300 554 291 or via email at to discuss your requirements and explore how we can help you enhance the fire safety measures in your building with a state-of-the-art firefighting lift solution.