U:\Martie - Newsletter articles\2004 Articles\11-04

U:\Martie - Newsletter articles\2004 Articles\11-04
Requirements For Emergency Egress Openings
By: Martin Van Berlo, Emmet County Building Dept.
Emergency egress openings are an extremely important safety feature in the buildings that we live in and use everyday. By
having emergency egress, a secondary means of escape is provided, if the main means of egress from a building is blocked.
While most people look at emergency egress as a way to escape from a building, that is not the only use for such an opening.
Emergency egress openings can also used by emergency personnel to enter a building, when the main entry may be blocked.
For this reason the Building Code actually calls these openings “ emergency escape and rescue openings ”. When properly
sized, emergency egress openings not only provide sufficient space to exit a building, they also provide adequate space for
emergency personnel to enter through, if necessary. An emergency escape and rescue opening is defined as “ an operable
window, door or similar device that provides for a means of escape and access for rescue in the event of an emergency “.
Section R310 of the 2003 MRC ( Michigan Residential Code ) contains all of the code requirements for emergency escape
and rescue openings in residential spaces. What the 2003 MRC tells us is that emergency escape and rescue openings are
required in all rooms used as sleeping rooms, as well as any basement with habitable space. The requirement for emergency
egress in bedrooms has been in the building code for quite some time, and most builders and contractors are aware of this.
The requirement for emergency egress from basements with habitable space, however, has only been around since the
adoption of the 2000 MRC. The 2003 MRC defines habitable space as “ a space in a building for living, sleeping, eating or
cooking “. Areas not considered habitable space include bathrooms, toilet rooms, closets, halls, storage or utility spaces.
According to the definition for habitable space, even unfinished spaces in basements are considered habitable space, unless
specifically used as unfinished storage space only, and therefore require the installation of an emergency egress window or
door. If a basement contains one or more bedrooms, or sleeping spaces, then emergency egress openings are required in each
of the bedrooms or sleeping spaces in the basement. Those emergency egress openings can serve the remainder of the
basement, and additional openings would not be required.
The specific opening requirements for emergency escape and rescue
openings are as follows.
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Maximum height off floor to sill:
44"
Minimum opening height:
24"
Minimum opening width:
20"
Minimum opening area:
5.7 sq. feet
with exception of grade floor:
5.0 sq. feet
Emergency escape and rescue openings must be able to be
operated from the inside without the use of keys or tools.
Where window wells are required at emergency egress windows,
they must be a minimum of 9 sq. feet in size, with a minimum
horizontal projection of 36".
Window wells exceeding 44" in vertical depth are required to
have a permanently affixed ladder or steps, constructed to code
requirements. Bars, grills, covers, screens or similar devices may
be installed on window wells, however they must be removable or
releasable from the inside without the use of a key, tool or force
greater than what is required for the normal operation of the escape
and rescue opening.
By providing the proper sized openings for emergency escape and
rescue, not only will a building project meet what the building code
requires, that project will be provided with an opening that can be
safely used in an emergency situation. Should you have any questions
on emergency escape and rescue openings, contact your local building
inspection dept. for further information.
Building code information taken from the 2003 MRC
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