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Because fire is a risk in every building – whether you sleep, study, or work there – you should always have an escape plan. You may need to escape within a few minutes of a fire’s start, so your safe exit depends on immediate warning from smoke alarms and advance planning of escape routes.

As a general rule, you should have two escape routes from each bedroom and each dwelling unit. The front door is usually the primary escape route, but an additional route should be available in case the primary route becomes impassable. Check to ensure each bedroom and living area has access to a secondary means of escape, for example an exterior window. Note: Secondary escape routes from individual units are particularly important in buildings not protected by a fire sprinkler system.

Travel Routes

Do you need to travel through an interior hallway to exit?

Interior hallways may fill with smoke and quickly become impassable if a fire occurs in a room adjacent to the hallway. If you must travel through an interior hallway to reach the exterior of the building, make sure the following smoke barriers are provided between the hallway and adjoining rooms:

  • Solid doors opening into the hallway, which do not contain louvers, which are slatted openings generally located in the lower portion of the door
  • Self-closing devices on all hallway doors, which you can test by opening the door fully and then releasing it…. Once released, the door should close and latch within a few seconds

In addition, there should be smoke alarms in all interior hallways occupants have to travel through to reach the building’s exterior. These smoke alarms will activate and warn occupants before the hallway becomes impassable, in the event a fire starts and smoke enters the hallway.

Do you need to travel down an interior stairway to exit?

Similar to hallways, interior stairs can fill with smoke and become impassable if there are no adequate fire barriers. If you must travel down an interior stairway to reach the building’s exterior, make sure there are fire doors on every level that will prevent fire and smoke from entering the exit stairwells. Check to ensure stairwell doors have closing and latching devices, and test the closing devices in the same manner you tested hallway doors. Also, confirm there are no door-stops installed and that stairway doors are not blocked open with wood wedges or similar devices.

Doors opening into the stairwell should bear a label that identifies the fire rating of the door. The label is usually found on the hinge-side of the door.

Does the facility have emergency lighting?

Buildings’ main electrical systems are often damaged in the early stages of fires, so it is important to have emergency lighting for interior hallways and stairs during the loss of primary building power. Make sure there is emergency lighting if you must travel through interior hallways or stairs to reach the exterior of the building.

Escape Plan Basics

  • Include two ways out of every room in all escape plans
  • Designate a location to meet outside the building
  • Verify that smoke alarms are installed to provide early detection and warning so you’ll have enough time to execute your escape plan
  • Make sure doors located in your path of travel can be opened from the inside under all lighting conditions
  • Verify that doors located in your path of travel do not require a key to open from the inside

If your secondary escape route is a window

  • Make sure the window can be opened from the inside
  • Assure the window is large enough for you to pass through the opening
  • Verify the windowsill is low enough to allow you to crawl through the opening
  • Make sure any security bars can be opened from the inside without the use of a key, and that you can open them under all lighting conditions
  • Determine how you will escape if the window is above the first floor: will you purchase a rope ladder or other emergency escape device, or will you wait for the fire department to arrive and evacuate you?
  • Make sure sloping terrain, the location of the window, or other factors will not prevent the window from being used as a secondary escape route
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