Keeping assembly venue egress paths usable: Small elevation differences

Blog Post created by laurenbackstrom Employee on Mar 22, 2012

Part 3 of 5

In assembly venues, small elevation differences, as might be created by a couple of risers, create an additional tripping hazard as the presence of the treads is not as obvious, to the approaching occupant, as that presented by a full flight of stairs. In Exhibit 1, the small elevation difference is mitigated, as required by NFPA 101®, Life Safety Code® by stair treads with an exaggerated depth, complete with a handrail at one side, but the patterned carpet obscures any indication of tread edge location – the stairs are not seen as separate stepping surfaces. 


Small elevation 1

Exhibit 1. Patterned carpet obscures any indication of tread edge location. (Photo courtesy of Jake Pauls)

Exhibit 2 depicts a small elevation, similar to that shown in Exhibit 1. The stair treads have the requisite exaggerated depth; the presence and location of each step is marked with contrasting tape; handrails are provided at both sides of the stair; and a placard stating “please watch your step” is provided as an extra precaution. 


Small elevation 2

Exhibit 2. Small elevation change effectively marked with striping tape and caution sign. (Photo courtesy of Jake Pauls)

Assembly venue egress systems, although code-compliant when installed, must be vigilantly inspected and maintained in order to perform as designed in time of fire or similar emergency.

For expanded commentary and additional photos, see the Life Safety Code® Handbook – 2012 available from NFPA.

-Chris Dubay