How to Develop an Egress Plan
The International Building Code (IBC) defines the “means of egress” as a continuous and unobstructed path of vertical and horizontal egress travel from any occupied portion of a building or structure to a public way. A means of egress consists of three separate and distinct parts: the exit access, the exit, and the exit discharge. This discussion’s focus will be on the exit since most material handling platforms and structures are located in open buildings with little to no separation of areas within the building. When laying out the structures and access to the building structures, the distance to an exit discharge must be considered. This results in creating an egress plan.
Egress plans are typically required to be reviewed by a city engineer. Depending on the municipality, a fire marshal to validate that the plans are adequate for the occupants’ safety to exit the building in case of an emergency.
Egress plans show the areas of occupied space, route(s) for exiting the building, and travel distances. Also, included in the egress plans can be other safety components such as illumination, signage, and fire suppression systems. These electrical and mechanical systems will need to be coordinated with another vendor.
Developing an egress plan early on in a project will help determine the size, number, and location of stairs to exit an occupied platform. The controlling factors for all of these design items for stairs are the occupancy classification and occupant load. The occupancy classifications for material handling facilities typically falls under the Factory/Industrial or Storage occupancies.
The area of the platform can determine the minimum occupant load. Still, a reduced occupant load can be approved by a building official with proper documentation on the egress plan. The reduced occupant load is to allow for longer travel distances to an exit and narrower exit routes.
Using a reduced occupant load is common for material handling platforms with large areas that are primarily used for maintenance but do not have workers occupying the platforms regularly.
A well-developed egress plan will help determine the layout of equipment, access points, openings for stairs, and provide a safe and coherent plan for occupants to utilize the equipment platforms. In addition to the occupants’ safety, a conceptual egress plan for your platform will minimize the number of stairs and create the most cost-effective solution.