Evacuation Route Maps

Q: Are evacuation route maps required in a hospital? We have them in our facility, but I’ve heard some people say they are not required. If they are not required, why does our facility have them?

A: To quickly answer your question: No they are not required. According to the Life Safety Code (LSC) and other NFPA standards, evacuation route maps are not required, anywhere in your hospital. However, if you have evacuation route maps, the must be accurate and up to date. All too often the evacuation route maps are put into place and then forgotten, and changes and additions to the floor plans are not updated on the evacuation route maps. Also, the orientation of the evacuation route maps must be placed so anyone can easily discerned where they are in relation to the evacuation route map.

There is considerable value in having evacuation route maps. They can be a teaching aid when conducting fire drills on a unit. You can use the evacuation route map to identify the locations of key features of life safety, such as:

  • Smoke compartment barrier doors
  • Exits
  • Fire alarm pull stations
  • Medical gas shutoff valves
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Elevators

You are not alone in wondering why hospitals have evacuation route maps. At one time they were required by the fore-runner of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). Someone pointed out to them that the NFPA codes and standards do not require evacuation route maps, and CMS agreed and removed them from the requirements. But hospitals seem to hang onto them, probably because they are a good idea.

The confusion on this issue is from section of the 2000 LSC which requires written copies of a plan for the evacuation to areas of refuge. The LSC is only referring to a written plan, like a management plan, but somehow it got interpreted to mean evacuation route maps.

Now, there may be other codes or standards that could require an evacuation route map that a hospital has to consider, so they should check with the local and state authorities.