By Adil Al-Khan
Access & egress & guarding are three terms that the layman is unfamiliar with. Therefore, proper clarification of these terms is essential. The term emergency access refers to entry into the building. The facilities equipment to fight the blaze should be accessible. All areas need to be unobstructed to ensure that fires can be properly detected, evacuation can commence, the blaze can be suppressed, and proper response can be given in a designated amount of time.
Access may be one term most are familiar with it. It is pretty self explanatory. However, the term egress is not commonly used. Simply, this term means an unobstructed continuous way to travel from any area within a public building to a open public space. Egress may refer to travel routes that include: doors, hallways, connecting rooms, ramps, balconies, passageways, courts, and lobbies.
Every location in a building must have an unobstructed means of egress that takes individuals outside. Included below, are some safety procedures and guidelines that can help building owners maintain proper emergency access & egress & guarding.
Stairways, Corridors, and Exits
All stairways, corridors, and exits must be clutter free. A clearing of 44 inches in width must be maintained at all times.
To promote safe evacuations using a stairway, corridor, or other exit, adhere to these guidelines:
· All egress needs to be clutter-free, unobstructed, and clean.
· Hazardous equipment and materials should not be placed in areas used for evacuation.
· Stairways and corridors are not be used to store office equipment or operate daily tasks in. Corridors are not put into place to be an extension of a lab or office.
Fires are not something that can be predicted. Most building owners simply believe that it will never happen to them. However, a fire can occur at anytime for a variety of reasons. Cluttering the area that is intended to keep people safe and help them evacuate the blaze quickly and safely is rude and illegal to some regard.
Fire lanes are designated areas that are designed to only be used by emergency personnel. These lanes permit emergency personnel to gain access to a building that is in dire need of assistance. It will also allow the personnel to obtain access to fire protection systems that the building employs. Even though the majority of fire lanes are clearly marked on campuses, not all fire lanes can be easily identified. There is currently a program in place that is being performed at Texas State University at San Marcos to mark all fire lanes appropriately.
Using a fire lane may seem appropriate for an individual that is attempting to flee a fire. But to ensure that emergency personnel can perform their job as needed, exit corridors and stairways should be the only pathways that pedestrians take. These pathways provide direct access to the outside of the building, while also allowing access to other pathways throughout the infrastructure. Safety guidelines must be followed when using a corridor or pathway as a means of egress. No one is permitted to park in a fire lane, and they must keep fifteen feet away from fire equipment.
Fire doors act as barriers to limit the movement of smoke and spread of fires. Unless the automatic systems hold them open, fire doors should be shut at all times. The doors should not be blocked or tampered with ever. Items placed around the door should not stop the door from opening and closing appropriately.
Fire doors can usually be found along corridors and stairwells, along with other areas that the fire code require them to be in. Fire doors are given a rating to determine the amount of time that they can withstand heat or a high pressured stream of water being shot at them. The door itself, along with its frame and locking mechanism are usually rated between twenty minutes to three hours at a time.
It is important that fire doors remain closed at all time. If the door must be opened, due to business reasons, then there should be a special closure installed to serve this purpose. The purpose of the closure is to connect the fire door to the alarm system that should already be installed within the building. Connecting it in this manner, will allow the door to close automatically if the alarm is activated. Closing off any occupants to a potentially dangerous situation.
Fire doors not only block out an existing fire, they also stop smoke from entering the area as well. One of the main reasons why fatalities occur during fires is due to smoke inhalation. Nothing should ever block the door, and only approved closures should be used if the door has to remain open for one reason or another. Make sure that there is nothing that would stop the door from closing if an adverse event, such as a fire were to occur.
The assembly of a fire door, should never be altered. Simple things can change the rating of the door. It can decrease the amount of time that the door would be able to withstand heat or any type of water pressure. A simple lock change or window install can make the difference between a high or low rating. That’s why it’s important to hire an ROP approved fire safety consultant.
Doors that lead to offices and laboratories can act as a smoke barrier, regardless of what they are rated. Make sure that these doors are kept closed whenever it is possible to do so. Closed doors are the best way to practice access & egress & guarding. Escaping a fire safely and eliminating smoke exposure can be as simple as closing a door.
Adil Al-Khan loves to help share his expert knowledge on Fire Safety and takes great pride and assurance that both himself, and the team at Advanced Safety Solutions are helping to improve Fire Safety in the Sultanate of Oman and the GCC. You can read more about Advanced Fire Safety Solutions here.
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