Emergency Egress Openings
Many fire deaths occur when occupants are asleep!
The following recommendations regarding emergency egress are based largely on the 2006 International Residential Code R310, as well as other fire codes.
- Basements and every sleeping room should have at least one operable emergency egress opening. The only exception would be a small basement (not exceeding a total floor area of 200 square feet, or 18.58 square meters) used only to house mechanical equipment. A bedroom that has a door to the outside does not need a secondary emergency egress.
- Where basements contain one or more sleeping rooms, each sleeping room should have emergency egress.
- Egress openings should open directly into a public street, public alley, yard or court.
- The egress openings should not have a sill height more than 44 inches (1,118 mm) above the floor.
- Egress openings should have a minimum net clear opening of 5.7 square feet (0.530 square meters). The only exception would be grade-level openings which require only 5 square feet (0.465 square meters). Note: Casement windows have smaller net clear openings than their frames.
- The minimum height of an egress opening should be at least 24 inches (610 mm).
- The minimum width of an egress opening should be at least 20 inches (508 mm).
Reminder: An egress opening which meets both the minimum height and width requirements can still fall short of the minimum clear opening requirement.
- Egress openings should be operational from the inside of the room without the use of keys, tools, special knowledge or unusual strength. Many homeowners add locks to large egress windows. An egress door should not have a double-cylinder lockset.
- The area of the window well should allow the egress window to open all the way. Egress openings into window wells should be at least 9 square feet (0.9 square meters) with a minimum horizontal projection and width of 36 inches (914 mm). Casement windows are often obstructed by eaves, gutters, debris, stored items or window well walls. Nothing can obstruct egress window operation.
- Ladders used to climb out of a window well can encroach on the 36 inches. Deep window wells with a depth greater than 44 inches (1,118 mm) should have a permanently affixed ladder or steps. Detachable step ladders can obstruct egress window operation.
- Bars, grilles, covers or screens, like the ones pictured above, are acceptable if they are releasable or removal from the inside without the use of keys, tools, special knowledge or unusual strength.
- Egress openings under decks and porches are acceptable, provided the escape path is at least 36 inches (914 mm) in height. The deck pictured above traps the occupant underneath during emergency escape.