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Coffee Break Bulletin

How To Create a Simple Building Evacuation Diagram

Updated: Jan. 6, 2021

This bulletin provides information for codes officials on how to create a simple building evacuation diagram.

In addition to exit signs that guide people to safety, some buildings — like hotels, hospitals, nursing homes, schools, offices and high-rise buildings — are required to post an evacuation diagram. These diagrams are critical to the safe evacuation of people during an emergency.

However, there is no fire or building code standard for building evacuation diagrams: what they must contain, where they are located, what language(s) they must use, or any other item that may go on a diagram.

That’s why it’s important for codes officials to create their own policies for diagrams that help building managers evacuate people.

Sample evacuation diagram

evacuation diagram
Touch or click to view/download

General guidelines for building evacuation diagrams

  • Keep it simple. Show the basic layout of the building (by floor level), including walls and doors.
  • Make the sign large enough so that it is clearly seen.
  • Color-code items on the sign to make them easier to understand.
  • Post signs at or near means of egress, entrances to stairs, in elevator lobbies, and in any area where there are a lot of people.

What to include in a diagram

  • Identify the starting point with the words “You are here.” This will vary according to where the sign is posted.
  • Provide a simple compass in one corner of the plan, showing north with the letter “N.”
  • Mark the egress paths that are available from the starting point. Highlight exterior or stair enclosure doors with the word “Exit.”
  • Show the location of fire extinguishers and manual fire alarm pull stations.
  • Identify any outdoor gathering areas.

Other diagram items to consider

  • Mark accessible exits, first-aid kits, automated external defibrillators (AEDs), eyewash stations, Material Safety Data Sheet locations, the telephone switchboard, or any other item that is significant to the building.
  • Include Braille code for any wording.
  • Use other languages that are appropriate for your community.

If changes to the floor plan are made, review the building evacuation diagram, make the necessary changes and post revised evacuation diagrams where appropriate.

Action steps for better building evacuation diagrams

  1. Create or review policies that address and standardize building evacuation diagrams.
  2. Gather examples of best practices for diagrams that you can share with building managers.
  3. Review building evacuation diagrams when you conduct codes inspections.

More information about evacuation diagrams

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