Fire exits are the most essential part of a building during emergencies. Without these, residents and tenants in a building would find it hard to go out safely. For this reason, governments enforce building codes that regulate the presence of fire exits and routes. These passageways are required in any building to ensure safety. In most cases, fire exits are connected to egress staircases or fire escape ladders. In other instances, these exits lead to an open space or a street.
Buildings have different types of fire exits. Although all kinds try to lead to safe spaces, not everyone guarantees to do so. To ensure that a building has a proper fire exit, the building owners must follow specific fire exits standards. These are prescribed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). If you want to know more about the ways to meet these standards, you may check out the rest of this article.
1. Fire Exits Must Be Permanent
As an essential requirement, an exit needs to be fixed. Moving a fire exit from time to time is a red flag as tenants or residents may get confused with its actual position. When an exit is permanent, people could quickly find it when disaster strikes. For this purpose, it should be placed in a location where everyone could see it quickly and easily.
In addition, it should have enough distance to the central portion of this building so that when fire or other disasters occur, there’s enough space for people to go to. Specifically, there should be a 25-meter minimum distance between the fire exit and the exit access so the fire couldn’t quickly reach the exit route.
Typically, the distance between the main portion of the building and the exit discharge—the part of the exit route leading to a safe and open space—is filled with fire-resistant materials for optimal protection.
2. Fire Exits Should Follow A Required Number
Typically, the number of exits comes in twos. There must be two fire exits located on two opposite sides of a single-story building. This way, residents would find a route even if one of the exits is trapped. If a fire breaks out and everyone seems confused, the exits offer a course toward a safe space. Aside from this, having two exits provides easy options to escape from the catastrophic fire damages at home or at work.
In other cases, more than two exits are necessary. This applies to buildings with two or more floors or single-story buildings with residents or tenants that can’t be accommodated by one or two fire exits. In rare cases, regulations allow a single fire exit if the employees or residents could quickly go out in just one exit. Yet, there should always be enough distance from the fire exit to the areas where people usually stay.
3. Adequate Capacity
In finding the adequate capacity, fire exits should be proportional to the allowed maximum number of people (occupant load) in a building or space at a time. Typically, the fire exit is proportional to 60 occupants based on the occupant-load scheme.
Basically, the occupant load is the basis for the number of fire exits and the size of exit routes. The frequency or concentrated use of a room, building, or space is considered in determining the occupant load.
Generally, the following are the average number of people allowed per space:
- Conference Room: 210 people, assuming that the room has an area of 3,150 ft and has been frequently used
- Small Meeting Rooms: 7 people, considering that it has an area of 200 ft yet heavily used
- Open Office: 92 people, assuming that the site is 13,800 ft and is generally used
Suppose you’re looking for a space’s occupant load. In that case, you may refer to the standards set by the National Fire Protection Association as loads of rooms and buildings often differ because of various factors. As a rule of thumb, always comply with the regulations.
4. Height, Width, And Other Vital Requirements
Generally, fire exits are 3-foot wide and not less than 6-foot high. In some cases, especially in more significant buildings or spaces, this could be modified to address higher occupant load. Aside from the height and width requirements, fire exits also need to be free from anything that could block a person from passing through it openly.
Further, some building owners want to familiarize everyone with their location and access to the fire exits. Hence, some are used as regular entryways for daily operations and the movement of tenants and residents. If you were to decide whether to allow this or not, you may just consider that your decision should favor those who’ll use the exits for their safety.
Lastly, the other requirements for fire exits are the following:
- Fire exit doors must open quickly and easily
- The exit doors should have clear labels of fire exit signs
- Exits should not be revolving or sliding
- They should be toward the direction of escape such as an open space or a fire escape ladder
- Fire exits should have no barriers or locks during operating hours
The primary purpose of fire exits is to ensure the safety of residents or employees in a building. This may not be an issue for seasoned building owners as they’ve already experienced the construction of buildings with fire exits. They probably understand the need for these.
Yet, for some, the necessity to learn more about the nature of fire exits and their standards is crucial. First, these are checked by local building organizations when monitoring building construction. Second, they can be used and have immeasurable importance for every tenant or resident.
Suppose you’re planning to construct a building or doing a similar thing that requires a fire exit. In that case, you may consider applying what you’ve got in this article. Think about the points and insight you’ve gained—the permanence, required number, and adequate capacity. Above all, remember the things that’ll keep you, the tenants, and residents safe and sound.