Ingress and egress concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic

New or temporary social distancing approaches to controlling building occupant flow have resulted in the potential for public safety to be compromised, like blocked or locked emergency exits to limit or prohibit access to portions of a building.

As businesses and communities adapt to social distancing, many have found it necessary to alter the way people move in and out of their establishments in order to comply with social distancing recommendations. In some cases, patrons are asked to queue outside the business, and in other cases, patrons are corralled into lines and aisles in order to maintain 6 feet of physical separation.

Fire and life safety requirements, including those mandating a minimum number of emergency exits, have not changed as a result of COVID-19 or social distancing. The potential for a fire and the need for emergency exits has not changed, regardless of the number of people in a building.

It is important that we all remain vigilant and aware during this challenging time by reporting any instances of emergency exits being blocked or otherwise inaccessible during an emergency.

Other factors to consider

  • The number, placement and capacity of exits is based on more than just occupant load. The type of occupancy and use, travel distance, and remoteness or separation of exits are examples of other factors typically considered when designing a building.
  • Some occupancies are required to have at least one large exit capable of serving half of the occupants. This capability could be impacted by some of the measures discussed above.
  • Other fire and life safety features should be maintained.