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Emergency Egress: Helpful Tips for Creating an Exit Strategy

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When there is a fire or other emergency inside a commercial building, people must know the routes to take so they can exit quickly.

Merely having an exit plan is not enough, though. Commercial buildings must have the proper emergency egress equipment to make exiting the building easy. 

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sets safety rules and guidelines for all commercial buildings. In addition to requiring sprinklers and other tools to stop a fire, the agency requires the use of emergency egress doors to allow people to exit a building in an emergency.

When you are creating an emergency exit strategy for your commercial building, keep these tips in mind.

Create Multiple Exit Routes

The first step in any emergency exit plan is to create exit routes. These routes will be the path that people inside the building should take to safely exit the building in the event of an emergency.

Make sure that you create at least two exit routes. This will allow people to funnel to the safest exit route if a fire or smoke makes the other option too dangerous, for instance. Having multiple exit routes will also enable people to exit quickly if none of the routes are blocked.

Install Egress Doors Along the Routes

OSHA requires that commercial buildings have egress doors to provide a quick and easy exit from the building. But, these doors aren't just necessary for the actual exit door. OSHA also requires that any door along the exit route must be egress. For example, any door along a walkway that leads to an emergency exit must be an egress door.

Egress doors in commercial settings have to be at least 32 inches wide, but they cannot exceed 48 inches wide. Egress doors have to open outward. They also can't be locked from the inside.

People must be able to open the egress doors in a single motion. Locks and deadbolts that would require more than one action to open the door are therefore banned.

Finally, the doors must have either a panic bar or button that automatically unlocks the egress doors, allowing them to open freely when pushed.

Regularly Inspect the Exit Route

Once you have established the exit route and installed the proper egress doors and signage, you should regularly inspect all parts to ensure they're working properly. To do this, take a walk down all emergency exit routes and look for any items that obstruct the path or doors.

Inspect emergency exit signs to ensure the bulbs work and people can easily read them. Ensure that all doors along the exit routes are clearly marked, so people aren't confused about which doors lead to the outside of the building and which ones are interior doors. 

Check the emergency opening mechanism of the egress doors. Look for any broken doorknobs, jambs or doors. If you find any issues, fix them ASAP.

Communicate the Evacuation Plan and Practice It

Everyone who is regularly inside the building should receive clear communication and training on the emergency exit plan. You can hand people printed materials that describe what to do and where to go in an emergency. You should also post notices of the steps to take in high-traffic areas such as kitchens, lunchrooms and copy rooms.

Once you have distributed and posted the educational materials, practice the emergency exit plan with your employees. Do this first in small groups, such as department-by-department. Doing so will allow people to walk the exit routes in smaller groups and ask questions if they have any. Ask each employee to operate the emergency egress doors so they can see how easily they operate.

Once you have educated employees in smaller groups, you can conduct regular but unannounced emergency exit tests. These drills will simulate an emergency and ensure that everyone knows what to do and where to go in the event of one.

Call CDF Distributors for All Your Egress Needs

CDF Distributors is the leading provider of egress doors for commercial settings. We also offer fire rated doors to protect against the spread of smoke and fire within commercial buildings. When you're creating your emergency exit plan, call us to learn more about your options for safe, easy and affordable egress doors.

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