Life Safety Compliant Means of Egress

Chapter 7, Means of Egress defines requirements for the many elements that make up exit pathways from facilities.

[For reference, door opening inspections (Section 7.2.1.15) is but one small section in this all-encompassing chapter.]

Requirements for the many elements that make up exit pathways from a typical facility are varied and complex. Additional enforceable sections for new and existing facilities include the following:

Exit Enclosure Storage

Exit enclosures shall not be used for any purpose that interferes with its use (7.1.3.2.3)

Elevation Changes

Walking surface elevation difference cannot exceed ¼” (1/2” with bevel), must be slip resistant, and must be level (7.1.6)

Door hidden with curtain

Exit Visibility

No furnishing, decorations, or mirrors…shall obstruct exits (7.1.10)

Door Openings

A door assembly in a means of egress shall meet general requirements (7.1) and special requirements (7.2.1 and all sub-paragraphs, 7.2.1.1 thru 7.2.1.15). Further, NFPA 101 -2012 Life Safety Code, Chapter 19 (Existing Health Care Occupancies) requires doors to comply with requirements of 7.2.1 (19.2.2.2.1)

The following selected items demonstrate the breadth of doorway requirements in 7.2.1:

“Occupied Building”

An occupied building is a) open for occupancy, b) open to the public, or c) occupied by more than 10 persons. (7.2.1.1.3)

Minimum Door Leaf Width

Minimum door leaf width is 32” measured from face of door to face of stop, except under certain special conditions (7.2.1.2)

Floor Level

The elevation on both sides of a door must be maintained and the maximum threshold height is ½”, with anything greater than ¼” beveled at 1 in 2. This is also an ADA requirement. (7.2.1.3)

Door Swing, Force to Open, Door Leaf Encroachment, and Screen Doors

Doors must swing in the direction of egress travel. There are exceptions for corridor doors. Signage may be required with door usage instruction. During opening swing, door arc cannot obstruct more than 50% of aisle width and when fully open cannot extend more than 7” into hallway. Screen and Storm doors must also swing in direction of egress travel. Finally, door opening forces are defined and there are 3 distinct points in the opening of a door that must meet requirements. Finally, if a door is in an accessible means of egress, the door opening force cannot exceed 5 pounds, measured at the latch stile, but there are requirements for fire rated doors that may impose new requirements. (7.2.1.4 and 19.3.6.3)

Door Locks and Latches

Doors must be readily opened from the egress side whenever a building is occupied. Doing so cannot require the use of a key, tool, or special knowledge. If a door provides access to the roof, there are 2 alternatives for locking it. The location (height) of the latch releasing mechanism is defined, the latch mechanism must have an obvious method of operation in all lighting conditions, and only one releasing operation is allowed. It is this requirement that limits the use of additional locks on facility exterior exit doors. (7.2.1.5)

Stairway Re-Entry

A special requirement for exit stairway doors appears in section 7.2.1.5. It states doors into stair enclosures serving more than four stories must be labeled for re-entry or no re-entry. If a door assembly does not allow re-entry, the signage must indicate floors where re-entry is possible (7.2.1.5.8)

Special Locking Arrangements

That are three special locking arrangements that require annual inspection to ensure the door hardware is functioning as intended (7.2.1.6)

Panic or Fire Exit Hardware

Devices cannot be added to a door to prohibit the free egress function of the panic or fire exit hardware. Also, the push pad must extend at least ½ the width of the door leaf. (This requirement is routinely not met when a panic device for a smaller door is applied to a larger (greater width) door. Finally, devices that hold the latch in a retracted position are prohibited on fire-rated doors. (7.2.1.7)

Closing Devices

A door leaf required to be closed (i.e. a fire-rated door) cannot be secured in an open position unless done so with an automatic releasing device that is rated and allows the door to close upon loss of power. Fire doors are required to be closed and latched at the time of a fire. The relatively inexpensive way to install fire door is equip it with a door control that pulls the door closed and allows the latch to engage. But this isn’t “convenient” in daily use, so fire doors are routinely (and improperly) blocked open with wedges, trash cans, etc. (7.2.1.8)

Powered Door Operators (High-Energy or Low-Energy)

In the event of power failure, power operated doors may be operated manually but must close and latch to safeguard the means of egress. (7.2.1.9)

Revolving Doors, Turnstiles, Doors in Folding Partitions, Balanced Door Assemblies, and Horizontal Sliding Doors

Revolving Doors, turnstiles, doors in partitions, balanced door assemblies, and horizontal sliding doors all have specific requirements. (7.2.1.10, 7.2.1.11, 7.2.1.12, and 7.2.1.13)

Inspection of Door Openings

Inspection of door openings is a very involved requirement detailed elsewhere on this site (7.2.1.15)

**End of Door Openings Section, 7.2.1**

Stairs, Guards and Handrails

Stairs, guards and handrails have a wide range of requirements defined in section 7.2.2. One specific requirement that is often infringed upon is the requirement that open space within stairway exit enclosures cannot be used for any purpose that interferes with egress (7.2.2.5.3)

Stairway Identification

New enclosed stairs serving 3 or more stories and existing enclosed stairs serving 5 or more stories are required to contain signage indicating a multitude of information. First, the stairway must be identified to differentiate it from other stairways. Next, the current floor level must be identified. Also, the stair tower terminus (top & bottom), where is exit discharge, re-entry / no re-entry (if applicable), re-entry location (if applicable), and direction to exit discharge all must be identified. Specific letter size and requirements, as well as minimum size of the sign are defined. The floor level must be tactile. Tactile signs must be located per ADA requirements (7.2.2.5.4)

Exit Stair Path Marking

The components of exit stair path marking are identified in the LSC, and they are permitted (but not required) for new or existing health care occupancies, However, the 2009 version of the International Fire Code (IFC -2009) requires these markings for many occupancies ‘…having occupied floors located more than 75 feet above the lowest level of fire department vehicle access….’ The many components of an exit stair path marking system (LSC 7.2.2.5.5 and IFC-2009, Section 1024), include:

1) Marking stripe applied to stair tread nosing

2) The leading edge of exit stair landings must be marked

3) All handrails and extension must be marked

4) Perimeters of stair landings, exit passages, and other floor areas must be marked

5) Obstacles must be identified

6) The perimeter of door(s) serving the exit enclosure and swinging out to provide egress must be defined

7) Door hardware must be marked

8) Emergency exit symbol must be applied to lower part of doors that serve as exit from stairway


Means of Egress Marking

Means of Egress routes must be identified with approved signage (7.7.3, 7.10 and 19.2.10). Exit signage must comply with NFPA 170, Standard for Fire Safety and Emergency Symbols. Some Means of Egress Marking requirements include:

1) Exits must be marked with approved signage that is readily visible

2) A tactile sign stating “EXIT” is required adjacent to each door leading to an area of refuge, an exterior area for assisted rescue, an exit stair, an exit ramp, an exit passageway, and the exit discharge. In the LSC, there is an exception to this signage for existing buildings, but IFC -2009 requires it, without exception. Signage must comply with ICC A117.1 (7.10.1.3 and IFC-2009, 1011.3)

3) Access to exits must be marked with approved signage where the route is not readily apparent.

4) Every EXIT sign must be located and of a size and distinctive color that makes it readily visible, with high contrast to decorations, interior finish, or other signs.

5) Directional indicators showing direction of travel must be placed wherever the path of travel is not readily apparent.

6) Every sign must be continuously illuminated.

7) Any door, passage, or stairway that is neither an exit nor a way of exit access must be identified with signage reading, “NO EXIT”.

8) If elevators are part of a means of egress, they must bear signage indicating this.

9) Finally, the exit discharge must be marked to make clear the direction of egress travel to the public way. (7.7.3)

In Summary

After reading this list of requirements, you know that a typical means of egress has many elements, each with specific requirements. While the requirements may seem mundane or lacking creativity, and meeting them overbearing, the reason is simple: In an emergency, whether it be in a health care facility, an educational facility, or an assembly facility, we want occupants who are trying to evacuate a facility be able to do so quickly and efficiently without having to interpret the meaning of an unknown sign or characteristic.

The many elements of a means of egress must be established and maintained to meet requirements. And these requirements apply to each and every exit from your facility, which a typical health care facility has many of.

The means of egress pathways are complex, with many components to be reviewed and considered.

DepartSure can help you survey the many egress routes (exit paths) from your facility and establish a list of necessary repairs or modifications to ensure Life Safety Compliance with the Life Safety Code for each means of egress.