Working Draft of Pitch Presentation
At Our House’s Emergency Shelter, women with infants six months and under, as well as their siblings can stay for up to six months while they work to kick-start their success and break the cycle of homelessness. Currently, the emergency shelter, which was recently acquired through the merger with Genesis shelter in 2014, houses eighteen families. According to fire code regulations, the Our House emergency shelter is at 94% occupancy, so the facility is quite crowded.
High-occupancy living can be extremely difficult for anyone, not just families in shelters. Apartment complexes, dorm rooms, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and boarding schools all experience certain issues related to the close proximity of residents. One major issue that affects all high-occupancy and multifamily facilities is illness. According to the World Health Organization, overcrowding and high-occupancy spaces are major factors in the transmission of highly contagious infectious diseases and illnesses. Acute respiratory infections, the flu, bronchitis, head lice, and pink eye can all be spread much easier and faster within crowded facilities such as shelters. Currently, all of the families at the emergency shelter must share the same restroom. No matter how clean the facilities are, a restroom that serves eighteen families of four to five people is a breeding ground for germs and infection to spread. Even if Our House were to provide the healthcare services that families needed during an infectious outbreak, it would be nearly impossible to curtail disease transmission, making the health risks of the high occupancy space, and particularly the single restroom, extremely serious.
Another concern of high occupancy living is emergency procedure and evacuation. With so many people living in one space, evacuation during a fire could be extremely hectic and scary, particularly for families who have experienced trauma, like many of the families at Our House. Therefore, having a set emergency and evacuation plan and compatible floorplan is crucial for the renovated shelter. For planning purposes, I have considered the Our House shelter to legally be classified as an “apartment house two or more stories high.” According to the Georgia Health and Safety Code Section 13220, apartment houses two or more stories high must have emergency exits within interior hallways and lobbies that provided the quickest escape route possible to outside. Tenants are also required to be aware of specific emergency procedures for the building. The emergency procedure should include the location, function, and use of fire alarms, smoke detectors, and fire extinguishers as described in Georgia Fire Code section 404.2. Fire Code Section 1926 also states that Fire Extinguishers should be available for every 3,000 square feet of the building, and the walking distance from any point within the facility to a fire extinguisher should not exceed 100 feet. Also, at least one fire extinguisher should be located adjacent to the emergency stairwell. Information regarding exiting the facility and including a floorplan map must be located at all elevators and stairwells and on each hallway.
The Georgia Construction Code also contains specific non-emergency requirements that would apply to the renovated Our House Shelter. One important requirement is Code Section 404.4, which states that bedrooms must contain at least 50 square feet of living space of floor area for each occupant. According to Section 403.1, every bedroom shall contain an openable window. In terms of bathrooms, when not equipped with a window, all bathrooms must be equipped with a mechanical ventilation system that shall discharge to the outdoors and not be circulated, as noted in Code section 403.2. Compliance with emergency and fire codes, as well as the construction code will ensure that the renovated emergency shelter at Our House will provide a safer environment for the residents, and will allow residents to be sufficiently prepared, should the facility experience a fire or other emergency.