Following the tragic fire in an Oakland warehouse space called Ghost Ship, engineer and designer Gui Cavalcanti put together a guide to help ensure that unconventional homes, studios, and galleries are as safe as possible. Cavalcanti’s article acknowledges that people generally use these types of spaces because they can’t afford more conventional real estate. And his guide centers on small, inexpensive changes that can save lives. Here's an excerpt:
Make sure your exit infrastructure is fire-safe. News reports indicate that the Ghost Ship fire was exacerbated by the fact that an improvised stairwell was made of pallets. For the record, people often construct bonfires out of pallets. They are not sound building material, they are not fire-resistant in any way, and they should not have been serving as exit infrastructure between the first and second floor. I’ve seen many pieces of improvised infrastructure in the spaces I’ve visited; second floors that are served by home-built wooden ladders, wooden lofts that serve as mezzanines, catwalks made of old building materials, you name it. All of these examples can be extremely hazardous in a fire or other hazardous situation. They’re cool, they’re edgy, they’re creative, but they can also be fundamentally unsafe. Make sure you have safe exit paths (that are marked and made of fire-safe materials) to all of your spaces, even if you also have decorative walkways and paths. Ladders, poles, ropes and other features are not safe exits.