Burglar Bars

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Potential Hazards & Violations

The ever-increasing concern for security has created a demand for security devices such as bars, grills, and/or grates. Unless properly designed and constructed, these security devices over bedroom windows and exit doors can completely defeat the purpose of the emergency escape and rescue requirements. The International Residential Code (the "code") makes provisions for security devices, provided the release mechanism has been approved and is operable from the inside without the use of a key or special knowledge. The code also requires that the building be equipped with smoke detectors. Several fire deaths have been attributed to the inability of an individual to escape from a building because security bars prevented emergency escape. 

The basis of the requirement for emergency escape windows or doors is that a person must be able to escape or be rescued in a short period of time because, in all probability, the fire has spread to the point where all other exit routes are blocked. Thus, time cannot be wasted trying to figure out means of opening rescue windows and doors or obtaining egress (exit) through them.

Bars, grills, grates, or similar devices may be installed on emergency escape or rescue windows or doors provided that the devices are equipped with approved release mechanisms which are openable from the inside without the use of a key or special knowledge or effort. This requirement does not apply to windows in non-sleeping rooms. However, one window in each sleeping area must meet the burglar bar code and emergency escape requirements. This requirement also applies to the main entrance door and all required exit doors.


Code Requirements for Exits & Emergency Escapes

Every sleeping room shall have at least one operable window or exterior door approved for emergency escape which shall be openable from the inside to provide a full clear opening without the use of a separate tool.

All escape or rescue windows from sleeping rooms shall have a minimum net clear openable area of 5 square feet at grade (first floor windows) and 5.7 square feet above the first floor. The minimum net clear opening height dimension shall be 24 inches. The minimum net clear openable width dimension shall be 20 inches. When windows are provided as a means of escape or rescue, they shall have a finished height not more than 44 inches above the floor.