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Does This Meet Code 6

Exits Anyone

A recent winter storm in the Midwest has brought a unique condition to the inspection business.  An Inspector should always look at the exterior of the building and ensure doors can open easily.  Although inspectors can not be at every business all the time.  Education of occupants and owners is critical

Maybe this single picture does not give the item justice.  Lets take a look after a slight modification (maybe its house keeping, maybe it just stopped snowing):


Do I ask, does this meet code?

PS this building is an assembly occupancy, does that change your concern?

{ 8 comments… add one }

  • Nick Markowitz Jr. March 5, 2009, 8:28 am

    Clearly the snow needs removed properly from door and walkway cleaned.
    Most Pa. communities require residential walkways to be cleaned with in 24 hrs and business it varies. but not more than 4 hrs most places during business hours.
    In my state.
    average snow where I’m located is 1-6 inches not a big deal to clear but further north the community’s up near lake erie get as much as 4-6 ft of snow on the ground on a heavy weekend. which could trap all means of exit if not properly removed. Of course there is also the concern of roof collapse in these heavy snow areas as well.
    Clearly from the pictures the snow was not cleared properly and exit could be impeded

  • Mike Wheeler March 5, 2009, 8:31 am

    I have an older theater that has a fire escape from a lower roof. Exiting patrons from a converted balcony theater have to traverse 25 – 30 feet of roof to get to the fire escape. During snowfalls, I have to remind the staff to shovel the membrane roof. Snow is definitely a problem.

    Means of egress must be maintained to a public way.

  • Dale Fahrney March 5, 2009, 9:14 am

    I use a “common violations letter” that I mail out to all of our businesses each fall and ice and snow removal is on the list. When I’m out I always try to look at the buildings, but we cannot be everywhere.

    Dale Fahrney
    Fire Marshal
    Miami Township Division of Fire/EMS

  • Rick Kessler March 5, 2009, 9:31 am

    The exterior lighting should also be maintained/check, egress to the public way. Where is the landing that is flush/level with the interior floor that is required on both sides of a door? Signage on door “emergency exit do not block” would help and some type of barricade to prevent this problem along with no parking / fire lane signs.

    Landings on both sides
    Emergency exterior lighting
    Do not block door sign
    Barricades/curbs to protect people from vehicle traffic when exiting building.

  • Brian Dove March 5, 2009, 9:55 am

    I have a bigger problem with the drop off outside the door (appears to be 2 blocks – 16″ high) than I do of the snow – living in the Deep South – we just don’t get the snow. If the snow were at the threshold this would give the deception that the ground was level with the interior floor.

    Lacking enforcement support, typically in these situations, I would at least notify the owner in writing that the drop off outside the door was a hazard. Many choose to fix it because they were genuinely concerned about their customers, a few more because of their liabilities. Part of our jobs as AHJ’s is to help business owners identify aeas of their business like this that scream “sue me” – this is one of those cases.

  • Mike March 5, 2009, 10:47 am

    Nick , I agree its an item in snow country that training of staff on when to clean the sidewalks is critical. I always love the odd fire lanes too that don’t get the snow cleared, if the snow isn’t cleared how do you know where it is? Regardless a heavy snow of 5 inches in an our or blowing snow can create real egress problems

    Mike , do you guys still allow businesses to have external fire escapes for future tenant changes? This is one of the big issues with those

    Dale , a great reminder as we are all human!

    Rick , Do you find the uneven surfaces on existing buildings is hard to fix? Great catch on the external egress lighting. We are working on a post for egress lighting and that will be a great addition

    Brian , I am sure your town has lots of buildings how do you notify them all of or give a gentle reminder to do this?

  • Mark March 8, 2009, 9:16 pm

    I think one of the questions to be asked is what is the location of this door in relation to the rest of the building. If this door was in the rear of the building and used only as an emergency exit I can see it being missed by building maintenance. Remember the PRIME objective is safety and compliance of code. A friendly visit by an inspector to ask that the snow be removed would be the key.
    I am in Chicago we got killed with snow. I made 3 site visits on drive by observations and had every snow blocked door brought into compliance. No tickets no mad building owners.

  • Keith December 6, 2010, 3:54 pm

    My inspection area is located in Ontario, Canada just North of Toronto.
    The Ontario Fire Code requirements state that “Exterior passageways and fire escapes in occupied builduings shall be maintained in good repair and operational and kept free of ice and snow accumulations”.
    I would have the owner clear the violation in my presence, which would include salting the area to prevent slipping while the occupants are exiting the building.
    If the problem became an ongoing issue during future inspections, I would lay charges against the owner.

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