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Wednesday, September 28, 2022  |  3:00 PM - 4:00 PM

Open to Conference Attendees Only

Life Safety Design Strategies to Protect Residents in Community Homes for the Developmentally Disabled

Rachel Opare-Sem
, architecture+

Life safety systems are widely recognized as an essential requirement for occupant safety in emergency events.  However, designers often see these systems as a mundane necessity, rather than a significant technology worth spotlighting in pursuit of the mission to improve lives with design of the environment.
The New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities developed a Fire Safety Upgrade Initiative for their statewide portfolio of community residences for individuals with developmental disabilities. This initiative was a response to two main needs for the existing single and two-family repurposed residences: 

(1) more effective alert systems for residents and staff during an emergency situation, and 
(2) safer accessible means of evacuation for all residents, irrespective of each individual’s unique developmental challenges. 

This presentation will demonstrate how regulatory codes, paired with thoughtful design strategies, can play a vital role in creating more generative spaces that successfully respond to emergency events and improve the human experience during such events.  Furthermore, it will emphasize how these life safety systems protect the life quality of the residents, while also providing peace of mind for the families, organizations, and the staff supporting them. 


1. Learn the goals of the Fire Safety Upgrade Initiative developed by the New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities.
2. Learn the strategies and systems that achieve the goals of this Initiative.
3. Learn how the codes, policies, and state departments can contribute towards creating more generative spaces.  
4. Learn how the Fire Safety Upgrade Initiative improves the lives of individuals in community residences.