Evacuation Chairs

Q: Can evacuation chairs be installed in stairwells?

A: The answer is… maybe yes and maybe no. Sorry, that’s not a direct answer, so please allow me to explain. Section of the 2000 edition of the Life Safety Code says: “There shall 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.” So, if we take the latter half of this requirement, it says we cannot place anything in the stairwell that could interfere with egress. Would hanging an evacuation chair on the inside wall of a stairwell interfere with egress? This is a question that is not directly addressed by NFPA, so that means the authorities having jurisdiction (AHJ) get to make that interpretation. My experience with many AHJs is they do not want anything hung on the wall on the inside of a stairwell where it could be an obstruction to those individuals trying to egress down the stairs. That means to me, that you would NOT be able to hang these evacuation chairs anywhere in the path of egress inside the stairs, no matter how wide those stairs are. However, not all is lost. If there is a landing at the very top of the stairwell that is open and not used as part of the path of egress, and there is no other items on the walls around this landing, such as a fire hose cabinet or fire extinguisher, then I could see that area being used successfully to hang an evacuation chair. The downside of this is the arrangement only seems to apply to the very top of the stairwell, and if you wanted to hang evacuation chairs on every landing in the stairwell, I don’t believe you would be able. Something else to think about: Even if one AHJ says it is okay to hang evacuation chairs inside the stairwell on every landing, I strongly suggest you do not do it. You may have as many as 5 or 6 AHJs that inspect your hospital for compliance with the Life Safety Code. Just because one AHJ says it is okay that does not mean all of the other AHJs have to abide by that decision.