Definition of Means of Egress

Recent changes in the life safety law NFPA 101 require special locks for doors in the means of egress that have two or more locks on the door.  To help you understand which doors NFPA 101 is referring to we have printed below the official definition of means of egress.


3.3.136* Means of Egress.  A continuous and unobstructed

way of travel from any point in a building or structure to a

public way consisting of three separate and distinct parts: (1)

the exit access, (2) the exit, and (3) the exit discharge.


As defined in NFPA 101. 3.3.136* (above) the means of egress has three separate parts.  Part one is called the exit access.  This is literally the first door in the means of egress.


3.3.63 Exit Access.  That portion of a means of egress that

                        leads to “the exit.”


The exit access can be a marked exit door from a room housing 50 or more people, an office or even a room with no regular occupants that is used intermittently by several different people (e.g. communications rooms, copier rooms, lunchrooms, etc.). Every door and every principal entrance that is required

to serve as an exit are to be considered as part of the exit access.


It is commonly thought that an office or a communications room are not part of the means of egress because they seldom have a lighted emergency exit sign and sometimes aren’t occupied on a regular basis. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. NFPA 101 states “every door” and every “principal entrance” that is required to serve as an “exit” are to be considered a part of “the exit access. The key words here are “principal entrance” and “serve as a principal exit.”


Part two is called the exit.


3.3.62* Exit.  That portion of a means of egress that is separated

                        from all other spaces of a building or structure by walls, halls

                        and other construction to provide a protected way of travel to the

                        “exit discharge.”


In simple terms the “exit ” is the middle part of the means of egress.  This is where you are most likely to find lighted exit signs.  It will wind down hallways, down stairways, through working areas, until you reach the exit discharge. (Note: The means of egress will be well documented and diagramed for all employees to see – usually a framed diagram of the route to follow will be displayed in appropriate places.)



The third part of the means of egress is the exit discharge.


3.3.64 Exit Discharge.  That portion of a means of egress between

                        the termination of the exit and a public way.


The exit discharge is normally the last “interior” door in a means of egress.  It leads out of the building and to the public way.


The public way is the first “exterior” part of the means of egress.


3.3.175 Public Way.  An exterior street, alley, or other similar

                        route from the exit discharge to the designated assembly area.


The public way and the assembly area are the final two “exterior parts” of the means of egress.  The public way is a route to the assembly area for the people leaving the building. The assembly area is a designated area at a safe distance from the building where people are asked to wait until the emergency has ended.


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