What Is a Party Fire Balcony, and Why Is It Unsafe?

As a building is constructed, the architect, contractor and owner will discuss the various options for every part of the space. From the smallest thing, such as the sink faucets, to major components, such as elevators, there’s always a lot to consider for a building. This is also true for fire escapes. There are types of emergency exits that serve varying purposes, including the party fire escape in San Francisco, CA.

Different types of fire escapes

The majority of fire departments across the country recognize three main types of fire escapes: the exterior screened stairway, the standard fire escape and the party balcony, also known as the party fire escape in San Francisco, CA:

  • Exterior screen stairway: The safest of all fire escape options, this is an exterior staircase constructed of steel and enclosed with shoulder-high railings or a screen. In the case of an emergency, people evacuate down the stairs to the street below.
  • Standard fire escape: A series of balconies with narrow ladders that drop down until people reach the ground level.
  • Party balcony: A small balcony built between two apartments or offices with no stairs or ladders. If a fire starts in one of the dwellings, occupants can escape to the next-door space that is not ablaze to safely exit the building.

The dangers of party balconies

The biggest cause for concern with party fire balconies is overloading. In an emergency, as people are trying to get away, they might overcrowd the balcony. These exits were not intended to bear the weight of many people and are liable to collapse if overfilled. Not only are the people on the balcony in danger, but those below, such as firefighters and other first responders, are positioned for serious injury and worse if that balcony comes crashing down.

Other issues also arise with these types of egresses. What happens if the adjacent window is locked or blocked? Maybe no one is in the apartment or balcony next door. With no stairs or ladders attached, building tenants are then left with the option of going back into the space that is on fire and trying to escape, which is a recipe for higher rates of injury and death.

Also, plenty of building tenants will confuse these mini balconies for shared outdoor spaces where they can get a breath of fresh air. They might block exit ways with personal belongings or simply become accustom to using this space for smoking, gardening or outdoor relaxing.

Then there are the personal safety issues associated with a party fire balcony. These exits provide ample opportunity for predators to break into homes and offices for theft, vandalism and numerous other crimes.

As a building owner, the safety of your tenants is in your hands. In addition to providing clean spaces, clear walkways, ample lighting and so on, you are also responsible for making sure these people have a way out in case the worst happens. If you have a building that uses a party fire escape in San Francisco, CA, it’s time to talk to a professional about your options.

For over two decades, property owners in the Bay Area have trusted Great Escape Fire Escape Service for all things related to their emergency exits. If you are concerned about your fire escapes, contact us now.

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