Last week I received questions from two different facility managers about egress requirements the evacuation of people with disabilities. More than 43 million Americans have a disability, so it’s very important to have a plan in place for how to safely evacuate ALL building occupants in an emergency.
The codes have changed over the years with respect to accessibility. Back in the early 90’s it was more common for certain routes to be established as the accessible egress paths, which would be required to meet the accessibility standards. Now, the IBC requires almost all doors to be accessible, with some specific exemptions like construction sites, highway tollbooths, and walk-in coolers.
Even if all doors in a building meet the requirements of the applicable accessibility standards, it may not be possible for everyone to exit independently in an emergency. NFPA has published educational materials (available here) regarding emergency evacuation for people with disabilities, and recently updated the NFPA Emergency Evacuation Planning Guide. This guide can help facility managers create a feasible plan for emergency evacuation, and it’s available for download at NFPA.org.