Ohio Building Code Egress Requirements

Egress from a building covers several aspects in Ohio building codes.

There must be a way to exit any building safely in case of a fire or other emergency situation. Ohio regulatory codes require a means of egress to be included in the structural design of both new and existing buildings. Code enforcement is the tool used to enforce these regulations, and the State of Ohio takes this issue very seriously. Many lives are lost each year due to a lack of proper egress or blocked exits, and the codes that target this problem need to be followed.

Types of Egress

Egress refers to a means of removing oneself from a dangerous situation within a building. In terms of Ohio building codes, means of egress can refer to a way to get out of a room on the way to a fire exit. This includes adjoining rooms, hallways, stairways, interior doors and lobbies. Egress, as it refers to exiting a building, includes doors and windows, but also refers to sidewalks, outdoor courts or yard areas that allow for quick escape. All of these must be kept free from obstruction, which includes material obstacles or debris and natural elements, such as snow and ice.

Windows

Some building exits, as they relate to emergency situations, may not be the type that immediately comes to mind. One example of this is a window. A window is a good way to get out of a building, especially when it meets the requirements of Ohio building codes. Basements are of particular concern. Many finished basements do have windows, but they may not be readily accessible to the room. Section 1026 of the Ohio Residential Code for Emergency Escape and Rescue provides exact locations for basement windows as well as their dimensions. Windows below grade must have a window well, and a ladder or steps of more than 44 inches in depth. Above grade windows must measure five feet square, with minimums of 24 inches for height and 20 inches for width. They must be no more than 44 inches from the floor. Bars, grilles and other constraints are allowed as long as they are not locked and can be removed with reasonable force.

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Unusual Situations

Ohio building codes for egress take into consideration extraordinary situations where an exit may become inaccessible. One example is Halloween. Haunted houses are very popular at this time of year, and section 914.7 of Ohio’s Fire Code defines a haunted house as a “special amusement building.” No alteration or decoration to a house can disguise, cover or otherwise confuse the appearance of an exit. This applies to areas of a haunted house that allow a visitor to walk through a variety of “amusements.” This code bars any visual or aural distraction along any walkway that passes through or around a building that will confuse the visitor as to where the exit is. Smoke detection systems are also required unless an amusement device emits ambient smoke, in which case an alternate type of detector must be used. Sprinkler systems are also required for amusement areas larger than 1,000 square feet or that provide a travel distance to an exit greater than 50 feet.