Storage, Storage Everywhere and not a Space to Spare-Environmental Health & Safety - Carnegie Mellon University

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Storage, Storage Everywhere and not a Space to Spare

Both the International Building Code and the  International Fire Code consider exiting a building without any obstructions, protruding objects or interruptions to be vital, so vital that an entire chapter devoted to "Means of Egress" has been written in each code book.

The code definition of a means of egress is a continuous and unobstructed path of vertical and horizontal egress travel from any occupied portion of a building or structure to a public way.

There are three distinct and separate parts of egress. The exit  access, the exit and the exit discharge.  I would like to discuss with you something that I have seen in most, if not all, buildings on campus at one time or another. This is the practice of using one of these three separate and distinct parts of egress as a storage area.

By storing any items in an exit access, exit or exit discharge not only are you not code compliant, but you also may  impede the progress of building occupants by reducing the width of an egress means that was designed for a certain occupant load. Any storage in a stairwell could reduce the number of occupants that could exit out of a door. Any storage blocking an exit door either inside or outside (exit discharge) could risk a catastrophe.

I have seen halls, corridors, stairwells and doors either blocked completely or contain storage that would reduce their width, thereby reducing the occupants flow.

I have seen a corridor used as a study area complete with desks, tables and chairs! I have seen filing cabinets stored in hallways. I have seen carpets stored in stairwells. I've seen bikes locked to handrails in stairwells. Heck,  I have even seen a small kitchenette in a hall!! 

I am asking you to think about the potential danger you could be placing building occupants in before using that corridor, stairwell or exit door as additional storage.

Even if you have a specified, dedicated area or room for storage there are still code requirements that need to be obeyed. For example in a sprinklered room there can be no storage of material within 18" of any sprinkler head.   By doing so  you impeded the spray pattern of a sprinkler head. You have compromised the ability of that sprinkler system to control, contain and extinguish a fire. Please do not block a manual pull station or smoke detector;  this is also an impairment to the fire alarm system of the building.


By: Rick Caruso, rmcaruso@andrew.cmu.edu, 412-268-9404