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Author(s): Ron Cote. Published on May 1, 2015.

NFPA IS IN THE information dissemination business. Its codes and standards, offered in various formats, are supplemented by a variety of seminar offerings. When I lead seminars in NFPA 101®, Life Safety Code®, I find it more difficult to present material on subjects around which myths have developed than on requirements that are new to the current edition of the code. The myths do not die easily, and create misunderstandings that interfere with proper application of the code. We can start by debunking two myths:

MYTH: Any assembly occupancy room with an occupant load of more than 50 must have a second egress door.

Assembly occupancy exits are typically accessed via a corridor or lobby and take the form of enclosed exit stairs or doors directly to the outside. The floor or story might have to be arranged to provide access to a minimum of two exits.

The door or doors from the assembly room to the corridor or lobby are rarely exit doors; they are most often exit access doors. There is no requirement that an assembly room with an occupant load of more than 50 be provided with a minimum of two exit access doors. Such rooms are often provided with a second exit access door in order not to violate the common path of travel limitation. Common path is the initial portion of the exit access for which the occupants are steered in one direction without a choice of paths leading to different exits.

Assembly occupancy rooms or areas with an occupant load of more than 50 persons are permitted only 20 feet (6.1 meters) of common path. For most room locations and arrangements, a second exit access door from the room can be positioned to provide occupants with a second travel path while still within the room. The presence of the second exit access door can reduce what would otherwise be an excessive common path of travel to one that is within the permitted distance.

MYTH: Exit signs are required at exits only.

Exit signs encompass both exit and directional exit signs. Some exit signs provide only the word EXIT; other exit signs include the word EXIT and a chevron-shaped directional indicator as might be needed where the sign is mounted perpendicular to the plane of the exit door opening and exit access travel is in a direction parallel to the plane of the door opening. Some directional exit signs provide only the word EXIT; other directional exit signs include the word EXIT and one or more directional indicators that point occupants in the direction of the exit(s).

The signs are required in three locations: at exits, such as above the door from the corridor to the enclosed exit stair or above the exit door to the outside; in the exit access, where the exit or way to reach the exit is not readily apparent, as might be the case where additional turns in the egress path are needed to reach an exit; and in exit access corridors of new construction, so that no point is in excess of the particular sign’s rated viewing distance or the 100-foot (30-meter) default value, whichever is less, from the nearest sign.

If an exit or directional exit sign has a rated viewing distance that is different from the default value, it will appear as part of the label affixed to the sign in accordance with its listing to the requirements of UL 924, Standard for Emergency Lighting and Power Equipment.

RON COTE, P.E. is principal life safety engineer at NFPA.