Rules for Fire Escapes in California

As the owner of a property with a fire escape attached, it’s important that you understand your responsibility for maintaining that fire escape, as well as the various rules surrounding the use of fire escapes. There are several sources online where you can access easy-to-read fire escape codes in San Francisco, CA, but here’s a quick overview of some of the most important fire escape rules you should be familiar with as the owner of a large property:

  • Inspection: As a national rule, fire escape stairs must be inspected every five years by professionals. The resulting inspection report must be submitted to the appropriate fire code official. Fire escapes in general should be examined and/or tested and then certified every five years by a design professional who will then submit the report to the appropriate city official.
  • Exit routes: Exit routes must be maintained during construction, alterations or repairs, or otherwise provide alternative egress with an equivalent level of safety. This rule exists nationally as a reminder that the primary purpose of fire escapes is to allow people to safely navigate out of a building in an emergency situation.
  • Local inspections: Under local Bay Area codes, all owners of apartments or other residential buildings (with three dwellings or more) or hotels (with six guest rooms or more) must have all of their building appendages inspected by a licensed specialist. The inspection should verify that the appendages (which include fire escapes as well as decks, balconies, corridors or exit systems) are generally safe for use, in good working order and free from potentially dangerous fungus, corrosion or rot. This inspection should occur every five years, and information about the inspection to provide proof of completion should be submitted with an affidavit form to the local office in charge.
  • Maintenance and repair: All safety devices and equipment for fire escapes must be maintained and kept in good condition at all times. Structural maintenance is important to ensure the fire escape remains sufficiently affixed to the building, and that there is no risk of any collapse. All fire escapes should remain unobstructed for potential emergency use. This means building owners should communicate to residents that fire escapes are not to be used as additional storage spaces for any personal items.
  • Violations: Violations of fire escape codes can result in fines for the property owner or for the person committing the violation, depending on the nature and severity of that violation.
  • Certifiers: Only fire chief accepted testers can inspect and then certify fire ladders or fire escapes. Any fire escape service you work with must demonstrate they hold the proper certifications and/or licenses for the work they will perform on your property.

Interested in learning more about fire escape maintenance, and the responsibilities you have as a building owner under state and local building codes to maintain those fire escapes? We encourage you to contact Great Escape Fire Escape Service with any questions you have about our services and the rules for fire escapes in California.

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