Egress and Elevators
More elevator considerations from the latest Life Safety Code.
NFPA Journal®, September/October 2009
There are several fire protection and egress issues regarding elevators in NFPA 101®, Life Safety Code®, that may need clarification. Some have been in the code for a while, and at least one is new in the 2009 edition.
Section 9.4.1 of the Life Safety Code states that elevators are not to be considered part of a building’s required means of egress. However, Section 7.13 does permit elevators to be used as a second means of egress from a tower, such as an air traffic control tower. This section contains several significant restrictions and requirements for the design and operation of the elevator to be used as a second means of egress, but, again, only from those towers as defined in Section 3.3.262.
Section 9.4.1 allows elevators to be used as a component in an accessible means of egress. Section 7.2.12 addresses areas of refuge, and Section 184.108.40.206.4 includes several requirements for elevators when they are used as a component of an accessible means of egress. It is important to understand that elevators are not required to be used in an accessible egress, but they may be used if they comply with these requirements.
The code’s new Annex B, “Elevators for Occupant-Controlled Evacuation Prior to Phase I Emergency Recall Operations,” was added to the 2009 edition of the Life Safety Code to address the use of elevators for evacuation of persons with mobility impairments. Phase I operation is the automatic return of the elevators to the primary floor, which in most cases is the ground floor, upon the operation of smoke detectors in elevator lobbies and the elevator machine room. This annex provides guidance for the use of the elevators when the fire alarm has been activated but before the fire has progressed to the point where smoke is moving into the corridor and the elevator lobby.
Another provision in the Life Safety Code involves egress from the elevator lobby. Section 220.127.116.11 requires that each elevator lobby have access to at least one exit. If the elevator lobby doors are locked for security reasons and require a swipe card or cipher lock combination to enter the floor, visitors or people who forgot their cards could become trapped in the elevator lobby should the elevators go into Phase I emergency operation and return to the ground floor.
However, a new Section 18.104.22.168.3 added to the 2009 code allows the elevator lobby doors to be electronically locked, provided the occupancy chapter gives permission. Such permission will be found in the “Doors” section of each occupancy chapter under “Egress Components.” If this provision is permitted by the occupancy chapter, Section 22.214.171.124.3 requires 15 items to lock the elevator lobby doors electronically.
Of course, there are many other requirements for safe elevator operations in ASME A17.1/CSAB44, Safety Code for Elevators, and ASME A17.3, Safety Code for Existing Elevators and Escalators. The Life Safety Code is primarily concerned with the use of elevators for evacuation and making sure no one gets trapped in a secured elevator lobby.
Chip Carson, P.E., is president of Carson Associates, Inc., a fire engineering and code consultancy. He is a former member of NFPA's Board of Directors.