Venice • North Port • Wellen Park • Sarasota • Englewood • Nokomis •Port Charlotte • Punta Gorda • Bradenton
Today’s PHW Inspections Topic: Egress
A Means of Egress is a continuous and unobstructed way of exit travel from any point in a building or structure to a public way. Every sleeping area, basement and habitable attic must have at least one emergency and rescue opening (Egress).
Every building or structure, new or old, designed for human occupancy shall be provided with exits sufficient to permit the prompt escape of occupants in case of fire or other emergency or allow entry of emergency responders.
The exit path needs to be clear. A clear uninterrupted path to the exit. This is where clutter, whether it is toys, furniture or stored items (hoarding) must not occupy pathway.
The Florida Building Code (FBC) requires that every sleeping room in a home have at least one operable emergency escape and rescue opening. This opening must have a minimum net clear opening of 5.7 square feet and a minimum net clear opening height of 24 inches. The opening can be a window, door, or skylight. If the opening is a window, it must be able to be opened from the inside without the use of tools. An egress window needs to open to a public street, alley, yard or court.
Bars, grilles, covers and screens are permitted at openings. These devices must be releasable or removable without the use of a key, tool, special knowledge or excessive force.
The Role of Egress with Hurricane Preparedness
Among the various aspects of egress, one that stands out prominently in Southwest Florida is the utilization of hurricane shutters. These specialized protective coverings for windows and doors are designed to shield homes from the devastating effects of high winds and flying debris that are commonplace during hurricanes. When hurricane shutters are installed, it is important to make sure that they do not obstruct any emergency escape and rescue openings. The Florida Building Code (FBC) allows for the temporary installation or closure of storm shutters, panels, and other approved hurricane protection devices on emergency escape and rescue openings and egress doors in Group R occupancies during the threat of a storm. However, such devices shall not be required to comply with the operational constraints of Section 1030.4 or 1010.1.9. While such protection is provided, at least one means of escape from the dwelling or dwelling unit shall be provided.
This means that you can install hurricane shutters over your windows and doors, but you must make sure that there is still a way to escape from your home in the event of an emergency. This could be a second-story window that is not covered by shutters, or a door that can be opened even with the shutters in place.
Here are some considerations for proper egress in a home in Southwest Florida:
- Clear Exits: Ensure that all exits, including doors and windows, are clear of obstructions and easy to open. This is particularly crucial during hurricanes when quick evacuation might be necessary.
- Hurricane-Resistant Windows and Doors: Consider installing hurricane-resistant windows and doors that can withstand strong winds and debris impact. These specialized openings help maintain the structural integrity of the home during storms and prevent dangerous conditions from developing inside.
- Emergency Exits: Designate specific emergency exits in the home that are known to all occupants. During storms, it’s possible that certain regular exits might be blocked or compromised, so having alternative escape routes is essential.
- Window Safety: Ensure that windows are easy to open and not stuck or painted shut. In case of an emergency, occupants should be able to quickly and easily open windows to escape.
- Escape Ladders: For upper floors, consider having escape ladders available. These collapsible ladders can be attached to windowsills and provide a means of safely descending to the ground.
- Accessible Exits: Make sure that all occupants, including those with mobility challenges, can access exits without difficulty. This might involve ramps or other accessibility features.
- Regular Maintenance: Regularly inspect and maintain exits, windows, and doors to ensure they remain in proper working condition. This includes checking for any signs of wear, damage, or deterioration that could affect their functionality during emergencies.
- Emergency Lighting: Install emergency lighting along exit paths and near exits. This helps ensure that occupants can find their way out even if the power goes out during a storm or other emergency.
- Family Emergency Plan: Develop and practice a family emergency plan. This plan should include escape routes, meeting points, and communication strategies to ensure everyone knows what to do in case of an emergency.
Conclusion: Building a Safer Future
In the face of Southwest Florida’s natural challenges, the importance of proper egress and the role of hurricane shutters cannot be overstated. These elements together form a comprehensive strategy for mitigating the risks posed by hurricanes and other severe weather events. By prioritizing safety through accessible exit routes and protective measures like hurricane shutters, homeowners in Southwest Florida can ensure the well-being of their families and loved ones.