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What is Egress Code?

Egress codes are vital safety regulations ensuring easy exit from buildings during emergencies. They dictate dimensions and accessibility for doors, windows, and paths, aiming to protect lives by enabling swift evacuations. Understanding these codes is crucial for homeowners and builders alike. Curious about how egress codes might affect your living space or construction plans? Dive deeper with us to explore the specifics.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Egress code is a section of the building code concerned with ensuring that homes have plenty of exits, so that in the event of an emergency, people can get out quickly and easily. Homes built before the egress code went into effect are generally exempt, although if they are remodeled they will need to be brought up to code. New homes must comply with the egress code, and building inspectors tend to be very particular about ensuring that homes meet the standard, because failure to follow the egress code can be fatal in an emergency situation.

As a general rule, under the terms of an egress code, every bedroom must have an outlet to the outside, known as a “means of egress,” which can be a window or door, through which someone can easily fit. Many regional egress codes specify that the means of egress must be able to accommodate a fully kitted-out firefighter, to ensure that emergency services will quickly be able to enter a structure in a fire or similar emergency. The code usually mandates a particular minimum size for windows used for egress, and specifies that windows must be low to the floor so that people can get in and out easily.

An egress code might require enough space for a kitted-out firefighter.
An egress code might require enough space for a kitted-out firefighter.

In addition to bedrooms, basements with “habitable space” often must also have a method of egress to the outside. In all cases, the goal is to ensure that occupants of a house are not trapped in a fire or in the wake of an earthquake or similar disaster. If, for example, someone sleeps through the early stages of a fire, it may not be possible to get out of the house by exiting the bedroom and finding a door, making it necessary to have a method of egress directly out of the bedroom.

Each habitable room must have a way that people can exit to the outdoors in case of fire or other disasters.
Each habitable room must have a way that people can exit to the outdoors in case of fire or other disasters.

The egress code was enacted in response to complaints from emergency services personnel who were concerned about preventable deaths during emergency situations. Specific code requirements vary by region, and it is a good idea to check the local egress code before remodeling or building a new home to confirm that the structure complies. Employees of the building department may also be happy to review the egress code requirements with people who call for information.

Without egress codes, buildings and homes could easily trap occupants in emergencies, such as fires.
Without egress codes, buildings and homes could easily trap occupants in emergencies, such as fires.

Like other aspects of the building code, the egress code sets a minimum standard. People who meet that standard will pass inspection, but many advocates recommend that people consider measures which will exceed the standards of the building code for additional safety. For example, living rooms and kitchens are not strictly required to meet the egress code in most regions, but since people spend a lot of time in both of these rooms, it may be sensible to make sure that each room has an outlet to the outside which people can use as an emergency exit.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an egress code and why is it important?

An egress door is an exit designed to allow safe evacuation from a building during an emergency.
An egress door is an exit designed to allow safe evacuation from a building during an emergency.

An egress code refers to the regulations set forth by building codes that dictate the requirements for exits in a building, ensuring that occupants can safely leave in the event of an emergency. These codes are crucial for public safety, as they specify the size, number, and type of egress points needed, such as doors and windows. According to the International Building Code (IBC), egress codes are designed to provide a continuous and unobstructed path of exit travel from any point in a building to a public way.

What are the typical requirements of an egress window?

Homes under construction must conform to local egress codes.
Homes under construction must conform to local egress codes.

Egress windows are required in specific rooms, such as bedrooms, and must meet certain size requirements to be compliant with egress codes. For instance, the International Residential Code (IRC) specifies that egress windows must have a minimum opening area of 5.7 square feet, a minimum opening height of 24 inches, and a minimum opening width of 20 inches. Additionally, the window sill must be no more than 44 inches above the floor to allow for easy escape or rescue.

How many egress points are required in a residential home?

All doors along a means of egress must be at least 28 inches wide.
All doors along a means of egress must be at least 28 inches wide.

The number of egress points required in a residential home can vary depending on the design and layout of the house. However, typically, each sleeping room must have at least one operable emergency escape and rescue opening, such as an egress window or door. Furthermore, each level of the home must have at least one primary means of egress, usually a door leading directly outside, as stipulated by the IRC.

Are there any exceptions to egress code requirements?

Yes, there are exceptions to egress code requirements, which can depend on the type of building, its occupancy, and local amendments to the building codes. For example, basements used only for mechanical equipment and not exceeding a total floor area of 200 square feet are exempt from having an egress window, according to the IRC. It's essential to consult local building codes for specific exemptions and variations.

How often are egress codes updated, and where can I find the latest requirements?

Egress codes are typically updated every three years as part of the International Code Council's (ICC) code development cycle. The latest requirements can be found by accessing the most recent edition of the International Building Code (IBC) or the International Residential Code (IRC) for residential buildings. These documents can be purchased directly from the ICC website or viewed at many local government offices or libraries.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a HistoricalIndex researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Learn more...
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a HistoricalIndex researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Learn more...

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Discussion Comments

TrogJoe19

@Armas1313

My aunt has a bomb shelter built nearby her house in the event of disaster. There is a lot of canned food and drink stored there for a lot of people in a long wait. Having an alternative like this can be very helpful as well, and allow for the survival of many loved ones.

Armas1313

In many cases, such as an air raid, thunderstorm, or a nuclear fallout, staying inside in the basement can be most effective, rather than egress. Sometimes houses can be leveled and basements can be left completely intact. Understanding your household structure and how safe your basement would be in these events can be an effective precaution.

arod2b42

Fire codes and egress codes can be annoying at times, and feel like an unnecessary precaution, but once you realize the vital necessity of escape in the event of an emergency, you come to appreciate these mechanisms. Back before we had these, the rate of deaths by fire were alarmingly high. Burning to death is one of the most gruesome and painful ways to die.

BostonIrish

Egress code is also applied to large and dense cities like Boston, where roads can be confusing. In the event of any sort of disaster, there are signs on the road pointing to an evacuation route. This is a helpful and reassuring device which can alleviate fear of being caught sleeping.

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    • An egress code might require enough space for a kitted-out firefighter.
      By: Ingus Evertovskis
      An egress code might require enough space for a kitted-out firefighter.
    • Each habitable room must have a way that people can exit to the outdoors in case of fire or other disasters.
      By: HomeSpot HQ
      Each habitable room must have a way that people can exit to the outdoors in case of fire or other disasters.
    • Without egress codes, buildings and homes could easily trap occupants in emergencies, such as fires.
      By: Tatiana Belova
      Without egress codes, buildings and homes could easily trap occupants in emergencies, such as fires.
    • An egress door is an exit designed to allow safe evacuation from a building during an emergency.
      By: wittybear
      An egress door is an exit designed to allow safe evacuation from a building during an emergency.
    • Homes under construction must conform to local egress codes.
      By: twixx
      Homes under construction must conform to local egress codes.
    • All doors along a means of egress must be at least 28 inches wide.
      By: ChristianFallini
      All doors along a means of egress must be at least 28 inches wide.