The “safe area” concept was developed by the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) working group on passenger ship safety and is linked to the guiding philosophy that future passenger ships should be designed for improved survivability so that, in the event of a casualty, people could stay safely on board as the ship proceeds to port or to a place of refuge. The MSC has agreed that: “A safe area(s), in the context of a ﬁre casualty, and from a perspective of habitability, is any area outside the main vertical zone(s) in which a ﬁre has occurred that can safely accommodate all persons onboard to protect them from hazards to life or health and provide them with basic services”.
Work on deﬁning the functional requirements of a safe area, were agreed at the Sub-Committee on Fire Protection (FP) when it met for its 49th session. The Sub-Committee agreed that the “safe area should generally be an internal space, however, the use of an external space as a safe area may be allowed by an Administration, taking into account any restriction to the area of operation and relevant expected environmental conditions”. The Sub-Committee agreed the list of basic services needed within a safe area, including sanitation; water; food; space for medical care; shelter from the weather and so on.
The Sub-Committee endorsed proposed draft amendments to SOLAS Chapter II-2 in relation to the safe area concept as well as draft amendments to the International Fire Safety Systems (FSS) Code aimed at speeding up response to ﬁre casualties, including new requirements for locally audible alarms and addressable detectors. Draft guidelines on the assessment of evacuation guidance systems and for the testing, approval and maintenance of evacuation guidance systems alternative to the low-location lighting systems were agreed for submission to the MSC. The aim is to provide for the use of alternative means of satisfying SOLAS Chapter II-2, which requires the marking of the means of escape by lighting or photoluminescent strips indicators placed not more than 300 mm above the deck at all points of the escape route. The alternatives could include directional sound systems. The revised ﬁre test protocol for machinery space water-based ﬁre-extinguishing systems was also finalized. The Sub-Committee agreed a draft MSC circular on revised guidelines for the approval of equivalent water based ﬁre-extinguishing systems for machinery spaces and cargo pump rooms, for submission to MSC 80 for approval. The amendments relate to the safety factor for the calculated extinguishing concentration of Halon replacement agents.