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National Fire Prevention Week

publication date: Oct 8, 2012
author/source: The HSCG

More Than One Way Out - National Fire Prevention Week


The theme of this year’s National Fire Prevention Week, which is from October 7th to the 13th, is "Have 2 Ways Out!" That makes it a good time to review exit routes, locations, and procedures with your workers.

 An "exit route" is a continuous and unobstructed path of exit within a workplace to a place of safety (including refuge areas). An exit route consists of three parts:

 1.      The exit access is that portion of an exit route that leads to an exit.

 2.      The exit is that portion of an exit route that is generally separated from other areas to provide a protected way of travel to the exit discharge.

 3.      The exit discharge refers to where the exit door actually leads.

 In this fire safety training tip we will emphasize the importance of making sure any person can escape the building by following a clearly marked and unobstructed route from any point in the building.

 Number of Exit Routes

 Building and fire codes require a certain number of exit routes and certain types of exit routes depending on a number of factors, including the number of personnel, the size of the building, the arrangement of the building, and the type of occupancy. Discuss the number of exit routes and their locations in your workplace.

 Location of Exit Routes


  • A minimum of two exit routes is required from any point in the building. The exit routes must be remote from each other to provide options.
  • More than two exit routes must be available if the number of employees, the size of the building, its occupancy, or the arrangement of the workplace is such that all employees would not be able to evacuate safely during an emergency.
  • A single exit route is allowed in rare cases where all employees would be able to evacuate safely during an emergency.
  • Size of Exit Routes
  • Exit routes must be designed so they are large enough to accommodate the maximum permitted occupant load for each floor served by the evacuation route. They must have a minimum ceiling height of 7 feet 6 inches; objects such as ceiling fans or sprinkler heads cannot hang down below 6 feet 8 inches.
  • Exit routes must also be at least 28 inches wide at all points, which includes the distance between handrails. The capacity of an exit route cannot decrease at any point.
  • Unobstructed Exit Routes

 Remember, exit routes are not just the doors or stairwells that lead outside. Exit routes start at any point in the building.


  • ·        Do not block exit doors.
  • ·        Stairwells cannot be used for extra storage.
  • ·        Keep file cabinets and bookshelves out of main aisles or hallways that are used as access ways to exit doors.
  • ·        Do not store anything (i.e., janitorial equipment or extra paper for the copy machine) in exit routes.


Exit routes cannot go through rooms that might be locked. Discuss with employees any exit routes that they feel might be partially blocked.

 Marking Exits

  • Each exit leading outside must be marked with a clearly visible and distinctive sign that reads "EXIT." The exit signs cannot be obstructed or concealed in any way.
  • Signs must be posted along the exit routes that indicate the direction of travel to the nearest exit. Show employees the exit signs along the exit routes in your work area.

 Any non-exit doorway or passage that might be mistaken for an exit must be marked with a clearly visible and distinctive sign that reads "NOT AN EXIT" or a sign that indicates the door’s actual use. Discuss non-exit doors and passageways in your work area that might be mistaken for exit routes.

 Adequate Lighting

Exit routes must be illuminated in such a way that, even during a power outage, emergency lighting is available to light the way to the exit. Exit signs must either be self-lighting or made of reflective material and illuminated. The self-lighting or sign illumination must work even during a power outage. Discuss how often emergency lighting for exit routes is inspected.

 Exit Doors

 All doors along the exit route must open readily. The doors must open from the inside so that evacuating employees only need to push them open. Also, doors must open without the use of keys, tools, or any other special knowledge. Discuss exit routes that require employees to go through doors.

 Move Away from the Building

  The exit route must eventually lead outside to an open space, street, or walkway that allows employees to easily move away from the building. Employees should proceed directly to the evacuation meeting point, where a count will be made to ensure that all personnel are accounted for. Discuss the evacuation meeting point for your employees.


Why It Matters

 In addition to fire or smoke, there are many reasons why your workers may need to evacuate the workplace. Other reasons include:


       Chemical spills

        Natural disasters

        Extended power outages

        Bomb threats

        Biological agents

        Workplace violence

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