Emergency escape egress window

While sleeping, you wake up to the smell of fire and smoke alarms. In a panic you head to the door, touch the knob and it is very hot. You look around trying to find another way to escape out of the room.

Two ways of escape. Every bedroom in a house needs two ways of emergency escape. 

Twice in the past week, I noted bedrooms that did not meet this requirement while doing home inspections.

Escape windows too high

The first was a master bedroom in a house from 1977. While there were two windows in the room, both were too small and too high to reasonably serve as an escape route. In an emergency, someone would likely not be able to exit the room through these windows – especially a child.

Escape window blocked

The second was a basement bedroom in a house built in 2011. While the window met the necessary size requirements, it was completely blocked by an egress window well cover tight against the windows, preventing them from cranking it open. I would struggle to force my way out of even this situation!

Both of these rooms could be deadly in a fire. 

Escape Requirements

Every bedroom is required to have two ways of escape (one is the door, and the other is usually a window.

Here is the pertinent note from the International Residential Code – 

‘R310.1 Emergency escape and rescue opening required.

Basements, habitable attics, and every sleeping room shall have not less than one operable emergency escape and rescue opening.’

It goes on to specify the details of this requirement. I’ll spare you from reading the rest of it and instead offer the following chart to help explain the rest.

Emergency escape window requirements

Emergency escape windows – often called egress windows – must be no more than 44 inches off the ground. When opened, the opening must be a minimum of 20 inches wide and 24 inches high.

If located in the basement, there are also requirements for the size of the window well. Most important is that any basement window well deeper than 44 inches must also have a ladder installed to aid in escape during an emergency.

Common Issues

Common issues with secondary means of emergency escape include the following:

-Window is more than 44 inches off the floor

-Window opening is too small (not 20” wide or 24” tall)

-Windows are stuck shut or do not operate

-Windows are restricted from opening

Hopefully, you never find yourself in an emergency that requires a second way out. Double-check to see that your bedrooms meet these requirements.