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It’s the middle of the night and your teen is asleep in a basement bedroom. Faulty wiring leads to a fire in the dining room on the upper floor of your home. Within three minutes, heat from the fire causes everything in the room to burst into flames. Clouds of thick black smoke curl through the house and poisonous gases are released from burning drapes and furniture. The alarm goes off and your teen awakes to find that the basement stairway is no longer safe to use. Is there another way out?
It’s important to have an alternate escape route from the basement as a clear path to an exterior door may not be available during fire or emergencies. Develop a home escape plan that includes two possible exits from each room. Establish a meeting place. Practice the plan at least twice a year and make sure everyone knows what to do.
The most common alternate exit from a basement room is an egress window, a type of window that is large enough for a person to escape through in the event of an emergency. According to the Alberta building code, egress windows must be present in each basement bedroom. This window needs to open from the inside (without the use of tools or technical knowledge) and provide an unobstructed opening with a minimum of 3.77 square feet and have no dimension less than 15 inches. Hardware used to latch the window should be in plain sight and simple to use. Any security bars, grills or insect screens present need to be easy to open. A window may require a window well in order to make it accessible and escapable. Code requires a clearance of at least 30 inches between the window and wall of the window well. If the depth of the well is greater than 44 inches, it must be equipped with a permanently affixed ladder or steps that are useable when the window is open.
If children are expected to escape on their own through a bedroom window, make sure you teach them how to open the window and remove or release the screen or bars. Keep a small ladder near the window, install permanent rungs or place furniture near the window to assist a child in reaching the escape route.
When you finish or renovate your basement, contact an experienced basement contractor. He will know the Alberta building codes and requirements for safety. He’ll have experience and knowledge that can help you create a safe and beautiful basement space.