Hazards of Overcrowding-Environmental Health & Safety - Carnegie Mellon University

Monday, April 15, 2013

Hazards of Overcrowding


Recent events appearing in the news have caused people to become alerted to the risks to personal safety that can be caused by overcrowding.  The following information is offered to assist others to help them ensure themselves against exposure to such risk whenever possible.  Persons attending party or assembly areas need to look for these features:

• Two exits are required from any space being occupied by 49 or more people, and  these need to be separated from one another as much as possible.  Preferably, they should be at opposite sides of a room or, at least, at opposite ends of the same wall.

•  All doors within areas of assembly must be unlocked and accessible any time these areas are occupied.  No exit door should be blocked or obstructed by equipment or materials.

•  Clear aisle space leading toward exit doors must be maintained at all times.  The  minimum acceptable width for aisles is 36 inches.  In larger buildings, codes require a minimum corridor width of 44 inches.

•  Occupancy permitted under fire codes varies depending upon the manner in which  the room or space is being used.  Different numbers can apply if fixed seating is used,  or if tables and chairs are set up, or if the event is “standing room only”.  A good rule    to follow for safety is to provide at least 15 square feet of space (3’X5’) for every person  present.  This would allow people to move more freely toward the exits if the need arose.

•  Exit signage should be clearly visible and lighted over each exit door.  Those who are visiting a space for the first time need to make note of exit door locations, and whether they can identify the presence of emergency lighting units.  If these are not available it may be necessary to find one’s way to an exit in the dark.

•  Look for portable fire extinguishers, either wall or cabinet mounted, in the area.  If a small fire were to occur, it would be helpful to know where this equipment is located.  If you do attempt to use an extinguisher remember to always keep your back to the exit, so that you can easily leave.

By: Bob Anderegg, ra09@andrew.cmu.edu, 412-268-6624