Fire Escape Safety

Most people won’t think about fire escape saefty until it is too late. Building occupants use fire escapes in the event of an emergency, and a catastropohe is not the time to realize you should have been more concerned with fire escape safety. Let’s explore a little more about fire escape safety, including what you can do to keep your fire escape system safe.

What guides fire escape safety?

Local, state, and federal building and fire codes guide fire escape safety. When a state, county, or town updates local building and fire codes, they look to International Fire Code (IFC) which is a series of guidelines for building and fire codes. It provides “protection for public health, safety and welfare from the hazards of fire, explosion or dangerous conditions in buildings, structures and premises.”  

Around 2011, the International Fire Code was changed, with a specific focus on fire escape safety. One way the changes impacted fire escape safety is regarding maintenance. IFC now requires that all fire escape systems are inspected, painted, and certified every five years by qualified technicians.

Why was the International Fire Code changed to include fire escape safety?

Fire escapes are an essential aspect of keeping you and your occupants are safe. Unfortunately, many of the fire escapes you see today are unsafe. Fire escapes are aging, and a routine fire escape inspection and painting program is what will keep your fire escape system safe.

By including fire escapes, the International Fire Code aims to ensure that occupants can use fire escapes for their intended purpose, to provide an emergency means of egress during a fire or other catastrophic event. However, because the IFC is not law it can take government authorities a long time to enact any updates.

Does my city follow the updated International Fire Code?

When the IFC is revised government codes are not automatically updated.  Changes in local, state, and federal codes are often frustratingly slow. Few local governments will enact the updated codes immediately, and many local governments are on a delay of several years. Some have not updated their building and fire codes in over a decade.

An outdated building and fire code is not illegal but it doesn’t consider advances in safety. This gap in fire escape safety leaves commercial and residential buildings susceptible. Most fire escapes have been on buildings for several generations, and even newer ones must be regularly maintained to ensure their safety. If you want your fire escape safe for use a routine inspection and certification program should be followed.

What is the recommended fire escape inspection and certification program?

To maintain the integrity of your fire escape system, the International Fire Code states that a certfied engineer inspects your fire escape every five years. An engineer must perform the inspection since they have the required knowledge on what is and isn’t structurally sound. Once the inspection has occurred a qualified fire escape company needs to complete any repairs the engineer identifies. Finally, a qualified fire escape company will need to paint the fire escape system to seal all joints. This repainting ensures continued durability and fire escape safety.