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Emergency Escape Windows

73 PhotoEmergency Requirements

Because so many fire-related casualties occur when occupants of residential buildings are asleep at the time of the fire, the Uniform Building Code requires that basements of dwelling units and every bedroom below the fourth story shall have at least one operable window or door approved for emergency escape and rescue. This exit shall open directly into a public street, public alley, yard, or exit court. The units shall be operable to provide a full clear opening without the use of separate tools.

Width and Height Requirements

Extensive testing by the San Diego Building and Fire Departments established the minimum window size requirements found in the California Building Code:

  • The net clear opening shall be no less than 5.7 square feet.
    Exception: Grade level opening may be 5 square feet
  • In addition to the above requirement, the net clear openable height dimension shall be a minimum of 24 inches. The net clear openable width dimension shall be a minimum of 20 inches.
  • The finished sill height shall be not more than 44 inches above the floor.

NOTE: Using both minimum lengths will not obtain the required area. You must adjust either the height or the width to obtain 5.7 square feet.
Last updated: 5/8/2008 10:36:51 PM