Fire Exit Question

An Investor I have done many inspections for emailed me this question yesterday, I looked at the NFPA website and did not see the answer doing a quick search, maybe somebody here might know.

This is an office building with 6 suites, two stories, but none of the suites are two stories.


Here is the question…

The building is 28278sf (two stories) and has an office space on the second story with 4251Sf. The office has only a primary entrance, while the adjacent office has a primary entrance and a rear stairwell. So a door connecting the two offices was put in, to allow access from office 1 to the rear door of office two.


  1.    How large does an office need to be to require a second door (or how far from the front door?)
  2.   If a second door is needed, can it be to the front lobby (same side of building as primary door?)


I seem to remember that there is a distance thing from interior to exits. I will keep an eye on this post


(I haven’t done much commercial so there may be more to what you’re asking than this.)

6.5.12 Life-safety
I. The inspector should:
[INDENT]A. Inspect fire access roads and report on any obstructions or overhead wires lower than 13 feet 6 inches.
B. Inspect the address or street number to determine that it is visible from the street with numbers in contrast to their background.
C. Inspect and determine that a 3-foot clear space exists around the circumference of fire hydrants.
D. Verify that hinged shower doors open outward from the shower and have safety glass conformance stickers or indicators.
E. Inspect to determine that the storage of flammable and combustible materials are orderly, separated from heaters by distance or shielding so that ignition cannot occur, and not stored in exits, boiler rooms, mechanical rooms, or electrical equipment rooms.
F. Inspect to determine that a “No Smoking” sign is posted in areas where flammable or combustible material is stored, dispensed, or used.
G. Inspect for the presence of fire alarm systems.
H. Inspect for alarm panel accessibility.
I. Inspect for the presence of portable extinguishers and determine that they are located in conspicuous and readily available locations immediately available for use and not obstructed or obscured from view.
J. Inspect to determine that a portable fire extinguisher exists within a 30 foot travel distance of commercial-type cooking equipment that uses cooking oil or animal fat.
K. Inspect to determine that manual actuation devices for commercial cooking appliances exist near the means of egress from the cooking area, 42-48 inches above the floor, 10-20 feet away, and clearly identifying the hazards protected.
L. Inspect to determine that the maximum travel distance to a fire extinguisher is 75 feet.
M. Inspect for the presence of sprinkler systems and determine if they were ever painted other than at the factory.
N. Inspect for the presence of emergency lighting systems.
O. Inspect for exit signs at all exits and inspect for independent power sources such as batteries.
P. Inspect for the presence of directional signs where exit location is not obvious.
Q. Inspect for the presence of signs over lockable exit doors stating “This Door Must Remain Unlocked During Business Hours.”
R. Inspect for penetrations in any walls or ceilings that separate the exit corridors and/or stairwells from the rest of the building.
S. Inspect for fire separation doors that appear to have been blocked or wedged open or that do not automatically close and latch.
T. Inspect exit stairwell handrails.
U. Inspect for exit trip hazards.
V. Inspect for the presence of at least two exits to outside or one exit that has a maximum travel distance of 75 feet.
W. Inspect exit doorways to determine that they are not less than 32 inches in clear width.
X. Inspect to determine that the exit doors were not locked from the inside, chained, bolted, barred, latched or otherwise rendered unusable at the time of the inspection.
Y. Inspect to determine that the exit doors swing open in the direction of egress travel.
Z. Inspect the storage at the time of the inspections to determine if it is potentially obstructing access to fire hydrants, fire extinguishers, alarm panels, or electric panel boards, or if it is obstructing aisles, corridors, stairways or exit doors, or if it is within 18 inches of sprinkler heads or if it is within 3 feet of heat generating appliances or electrical panel boards at the time of the inspection.

Watching my Bears , but search here.

I’m watching the Bears, NASCAR, Message board and pizza rolls in oven.
How’s that for multi tasking?

Dale. it depends on several different items. Distance to exit, number of employees, type of occupancy etc. If you need a difinitive answer give me a call and we will nail it down.

Hi Gary,

Just returned from my Sunday inspections----:twisted:—:twisted:, this is getting old, 7 days a week–:shock:

Yes I know all of the above statements, and after I posted the investors email to me I realized that I should go there and take some measurements, and look at the building for a fee, his question is too vague…:roll:

My brain is like someone put it in a blender—:shock:

Thanks everyone, I called him and told him I need measurements and too look at exactly what he’s talking about, so I will go there this week (for a fee–:D-).

Hi. Dale;

Hey, this is not a typical Home Inspector question buddy. ha. ha.

This would be more well directed to an Architectural Consultant.

To answer your question, a copy of the IBC and the NFPA would be a necessity. None of which I have for reference.

What I do know from your description, is that the building would be classified as a Class II or Group B. And this is all from memory and use.

Your answer can be found in the IBC Chapter 3

Every facility, building, structure, or portion thereof shall be provided with exits as required per it’s classification.

Exit is a continuous and unobstructed means of egress to a public way and shall include intervening aisles, doors, doorways, gates, corridors, exterior exit balconies, ramps, stairways, smoke-proof enclosures, horizontal exits, exit passage ways, exit courts, and yards.




In every facility, building, or structure, exits shall be so arranged and maintained as to provide free and unobstructed egress from all parts of the facility, building, or structure at all times when it is occupied. No lock or fastening device to prevent free evacuation from the inside of any room, space, facility, building, structure or portion thereof, shall be installed.

When serving an occupant load of fifty (50) or less, the corridor width may be reduced to thirty six (36) inches.

Stairways serving an occupant load of forty-nine (49) or less, the stairway width may be reduced to thirty-six (36) inches.

The capacity of means of egress for any floor, balcony, tier, mezzanine, or other occupied space shall be sufficient for the occupant load.

The occupant load shall be the maximum number of persons that may be in the space at any time. The maximum occupant load other than assembly use shall not exceed the capacity of the exits. The occupant load for an assembly building or portion thereof may be increased when approved by building official and the appropriate requirements are met.

If only two (2) exits are required, they shall be placed a distance apart equal to not less than one-half (1/2) of the length of the maximum overall diagonal dimension of the facility, building, structure, or area to be served measured in a straight line between exits.

I believe that one of your questions might be answered here, but not sure.

Rooms may have one (1) exit through an adjoining or intervening room, where such adjoining rooms or areas are accessory to the area served, which provides a direct, obvious, and unobstructed means of travel to an exit corridor, exit enclosure, or until egress is provided from the facility, building, or structure.
In other than dwelling units, exits shall not pass through kitchens, rest rooms, closets, or spaces used for similar purposes.
EXCEPTIONS: Rooms with a cumulative occupant load of ten (10) or less may exit through more than one (1) intervening room.

I believe you could verify all this with the IBC.

I would strongly urge you to consult with the AHJ or a local Architect.

Hope this helps a bit anyways.

Marcel :):smiley:

Yes, 10-4…I know all that ole buddy…I called a city of Scottsdale commercial building inspector, friend of mine (where the building is located, Scottsdale), he will meet me there next week and we will figure out the answer for the buyer when we have all the information needed to make a judgment…I will let the City do that—:wink:

And charge for my services of course—:lol:


Table 1019.2 (IBC 2006) defines the buildings allowed to have one exit (one story and two story) but it uses the number of occupants and the travel distance (in feet) to the outside to determine when only one exit is allowed.

Sounds like an equitable plan to me buddy, :wink: (for you that is). :):stuck_out_tongue:

Marcel :slight_smile:

Thanks Jim…I will let the City give the man a go ahead in writing, and of course charge for my services…I think the investor is asking a question which really cannot be answered yet anyway, he plans on remodeling, and really needs an architect to determine what the size of the space will be after improvements are made.

Unless he’s going to do work without a permit, which is not unusual here—:-k

to give you a quick answer, NFPA 101 (2000 ed) allows existing business occupancies common path of travel to be 75 ft (unsprinklered) or 100 ft (sprinklered) with a total travel distance of 200 ft (unsprinklered) or 300 ft (sprinklered). Note that sprinklered requires complete sprinkler coverage with an approved sprinkler system that is supervised.

Not less than 2 separate exits are required on every story.

Personally, I would also speak with the fire inspector for the jurisdiction to determine other life safety code issues that need to be dealt with (fire barriers, smoke barriers, sprinkler systems, alarms, and so forth).

Hope this helps.

I agree with Chris. The fire dept. up here in Toronto has the last say whether a building commercial or residential can be occupied. All fire saftey issues (building plans have to be submitted to them for approval) have to be passed by them and only them.


Forget about code officials and fire departments. They have no duty to advise your client. You do. This has nothing to do with “approving” or “passing” anything. The AHJ may say the building needs 4 pink exits and a purple fire pole for all we know.

You are paid to observe and report. So the question is what should you report given what you’ve observed?

Here is the thinking behind InterNACHI’s ComSop. As an inspector for a buyer who might be changing the use of the property, and as an inspector who can’t test the sprinkler system… you are stuck with 2 unknowns:

1 Occupancy


  1. Sprinkler functionality.

InterNACHI’s ComSop explains that you can never determine either and so you don’t have to.

Now then, given that you can never predict future occupancy or sprinkler fuctionality (variables)… our equation removes these variables and replaces them with high occupancy and no functioning sprinklers as constants.

The equation then simplifies to 6.5.12.V., which does not rely on knowing either occupancy or sprinkler functionality.

Simply report that you DID observe the presence of 2 exits or 1 exit with a maximum travel distance of 75 feet… or that you DID NOT observe the presence of 2 exits or 1 exit with a maximum travel distance of 75 feet. There is no ambiguity. makes everything simple… it is the commercial inspector’s equivalent of the nuclear physics industry’s unified field theory. :cool:

I didn’t inspect anything Nick, the man emailed me, an investor I know…so I told him I did not know the answer right away, I had an inspection to go too.

So I posted the question here, figuring someone might know a rough answer, because you really need to see the building to get the jest of his question, I told him to watch the message board for the answer–::))…I had to go too an inspection, he got quite a kick out of the various answers.

Anyway, he cannot change the way it was originally designed by an architect without sending revised plans to the city for re-approval.

It’s great to have an SOP , however we need to have more knowledge of commercial systems .

I had a hard time trying to find an answer to if doors need to be self closing in high rises? Which ones?

Then you need to define High rise.

From the Ontario fire code.I don’t know how different it is from yours. But I hope it helps a bit.

Sorry Dale, I’m a horrible reader, only scan. Slow. My kids say that I like to curl up next to the fireplace with a good paragraph. :cool: