Q: Is there any specific regulation that addresses storing items under stairwells and if so does it differentiate between public stairs and stairs which are utilized to access areas not open to the public?
A: Yes, section 188.8.131.52.3 of the 2000 edition of the Life Safety Code specifically says there must be no enclosed, usable space within an exit enclosure, including under stairs, nor shall any open space within the enclosure be used for any purpose that has the potential to interfere with egress. There is an exception that says enclosed usable space is permitted under the stairs, provided that the space is separated from the stair enclosure by the same fire resistance as the exit enclosure, and entrance to that enclosed usable space is not from within the stair enclosure. The common conclusion of this (and other sections) is general storage is prohibited in stairwells. The concept of an exit enclosure is to provide an egress environment which is sterile from safety hazards. It is recognized that general storage usually ends up (or has the potential of) being a hazardous area, and exiting through a hazardous area is not permitted. From that point of view, this makes perfect sense. However, the LSC does not prohibit safety items stored in the stairwell as long as they do not interfere with the egress. As mentioned in a posting on March 2, evacuation chairs stored at the top of the stairwell could be considered to not interfere with egress. Hospitals have such a difficult time finding adequate useful storage space I believe a safety item (such as patient evacuation chairs) should be permitted inside an exit enclosure provided it does not interfere with egress in any way.