Exits are one of the most important aspects for evacuation from a building during an emergency. Yet many of us can’t tell the difference between various kind exits and their signage. In this article, we hope to clear the mystery around the different kinds of exits and their signage so you know when to use which.
Typically there are three kinds of exits that one comes across during evacuation:
Ultimate or final exits ideally lead you in the open air, where unrestricted dispersal away from the building can be achieved. Total dispersal in the open air therefore constitutes ultimate safety.
In terms of fire safety, the final exits on an escape route in a public building are known as fire exits. They may or may not be located on the usual route of traffic when the premises are operating under normal circumstances. The final exit doors should open easily, immediately and, wherever practicable, “in the direction of escape”, i.e. outwards into a place of safety outside the building. Sliding or revolving doors must not be used for exits specifically intended as fire exits. The emergency routes and fire exits must be well lit and indicated by appropriate signs, e.g. ‘Fire Exit – Keep Clear’.
We have all seen emergency exit doors. Whether in your workplace or your apartment building, all emergency exits have the same unmistakable signs and pictures above and around them. Emergency exit doors are so commonplace that we forget their significance. They can become invisible to us. However, their importance is huge. The Emergency Exit is the secondary Exit, which is usually away from the normal Exit of general use from the normal routine movement. An emergency exit is a clear, safe way to get out of a structure or building usually in the backside of the building to the secondary exit gate. It provides fast exit in case of emergency such as an out of control fire in a building away from the main entrance as that might be crowded with parked vehicles and other busy movements. First responders may also use it as a way into the building so it is very important to make sure they are ready to use at all times. They have become such a common site these days, in workplaces, cinemas, restaurants, that we take them for granted.
An intermediate exit leads you to a temporary place of safety, such as when evacuating high buildings. This may be defined as a place of comparative safety and includes any place that puts an effective barrier (normally 30 minutes’ fire resistance) between the person escaping and the fire. Examples are as follows:
- A storey exit into a protected stairway or the lobby of a lobby approach stairway;
- A door in a compartment wall or separating wall leading to an alternative exit;
- A door that leads directly to a protected staircase area or a final exit via a protected corridor.
- A staircase that is enclosed throughout its height by a fire resisting structure and doors can sometimes be considered a place of comparative safety.