Q: Are hard-surface sidewalks, such as concrete, required between the exit door and the public way in order to qualify as an exit discharge? I was told that we need to have a hard-surface sidewalk in these locations.
A: The LSC does not require a hard surface sidewalk, such as a concrete walk. However, the code does have specific requirements that need to be complied with. Section 7.7 requires exits to terminate directly to the public way or to an exterior exit discharge such as a yard, court or open space. Additional requirements are found in section 7.1.6, which discusses abrupt changes in elevation in the walking surface which cannot exceed ¼ inch. This may be difficult to maintain over a grass yard or open space. Additional requirements involving stairs or ramps are found in section 7.1.7. The path of egress must be maintained free of all obstructions and impediments, including the removal of snow and ice for those institutions that are located in cold weather areas.
The requirements for a level walking surface and the removal of snow and ice are easier to comply with when there is a hard walking surface, such as a concrete sidewalk. An open space that is already a hard, level walking surface such as a paved parking lot, or a gravel access is fine as long as you meet the other requirements.
Even though the LSC does not specifically require it, most authorities having jurisdiction (AHJ) will require hard-surface sidewalk, such as concrete, to assure the organization meets the level walking surface requirement.