Fire escape maintenance is important. It’s not something that you often think about but most of the fire escapes you see today are decades old. The first United states fire escape system was patented in 1898. Since then, fire escapes have become the primary means of emergency egress for many commercial and residential buildings throughout the country.
As stated above, most of the fire escapes you see today have been around for many years. The good news is that a properly maintained fire escape will last over 100 years. However, improperly maintained fire escapes will degenerate much faster. This leads to an unsafe environment.
The most common material used in fire escape construction is steel. Steel is a high strength and durable material. As a result, steel fire escapes can last for generations. It is important to note that in order for a fire escape to last for generations you must follow a proper maintenance schedule. Steel is subject to rusting, which will negatively impact the structural integrity of your fire escape.
International Fire Code (IFC), requires a fire escape system inspection by a qualified individual every five years. The inspector will review your entire system for any rust, damage, or wear and tear. In addition to the inspection IFC also requires that all fire escape systems receive a fresh coat of paint every five years. This requirement combats rusting. It is not for aesthetic purposes, but rather to seal the steel used. The paint creates a barrier, preventing water and oxygen from creating rust. A fresh coat of paint repairs any exposed steel, ensuring that your fire escape system will last for years to come.
Deciding not to repaint your fire escape system can open you up to unnecessary liabilities. If your fire escape system is not properly maintained the inevitable rust will impact the usability of your fire escape. Fire escape systems are typically used only in cases of an emergency. Structural failure in these situations can lead to catastrophic consequences.
As discussed earlier, before any painting can occur a qualified individual will need to perform a thorough inspection. Your inspector will identify any areas of rust or rotten areas. You will need to remove any current corrosion prior to painting in order to maintain the structure. If you were to paint over rust without repairing it first, you would be creating an invisible hazard.
So what does this mean for your fire escape system? If a sturdy and structurally sound system is inspected and repainted every five years, it will last for decades with minimal need for repairs.