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Fire Escape Safety: National Fire Escape Association

Fire Escape Safety: National Fire Escape Association

David Tabar David Tabar
12 minute read

The Urgent Call for Fire Escape Safety: Insights from the National Fire Escape Association

In a recent episode of the Mighty Line Minute, host Dave had the opportunity to discuss fire escape safety a crucial topic in urban safety with Cisco, the founder of the National Fire Escape Association. Known as the "Fire Escape Guy," Cisco shared eye-opening insights that are vital not only for our listeners but for every urban dweller and property owner.

The Overlooked Hazard in Plain Sight with Fire Escape Safety

Cisco revealed a startling statistic on the podcast: 98% of fire escapes fail when inspected. Despite their ubiquity on buildings across the United States, fire escapes have largely been ignored in terms of maintenance. In many cases, these critical safety pathways haven't been properly examined in over 75 years. This neglect is primarily due to outdated regulations and the minimal enforcement of existing safety codes. It was only recently, in 2022, that some progress was made in standardizing inspection protocols nationwide.

A Push for Change through Education and Advocacy with Fire Escape Safety

Cisco's mission extends beyond simple inspections. Through his TikTok platform, "Fire Escape Guy," he actively educates the public by demonstrating the safety status of fire escapes in real time across various cities—from Seattle to San Diego and Chicago to Texas. His approach is direct and impactful: he assesses the safety of fire escapes on the spot and communicates the urgent need for regular maintenance.

Moreover, Cisco has been instrumental in advocating for updated safety regulations. His efforts with the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) aim to amend the NFPA's codes to mandate regular fire escape inspections every five years. This change is crucial for ensuring that property owners prioritize the upkeep of these essential safety exits.

Free Education Nationwide for Fire Escape Safety

Cisco also contributes by teaching fire escape safety classes across the country, including cities like Cleveland and Cincinnati. Remarkably, he offers these classes for free, providing valuable continuing education credits to participants. These sessions are part of a broader effort to raise awareness about the "bastard child of egress," as fire escapes are often the last priority in building maintenance until a tragedy strikes.

How You Can Get Involved with Fire Escape Safety

For those interested in learning more or getting involved, Cisco recommends visiting the NationalFireEscapeAssociation.org. The website provides access to all the classes Cisco has taught, along with detailed information on fire escape codes and the proper procedures for inspection and maintenance.

Conclusion of Fire Escape Safety

The conversation with Cisco underscores a critical oversight in urban safety that affects many. By bringing this issue to the forefront, Mighty Line and the National Fire Escape Association hope to spark a movement towards better safety standards and more conscientious maintenance of fire escapes. Ensuring the integrity of these emergency exits is not just a matter of compliance but a fundamental aspect of safeguarding human lives.

Listeners are encouraged to become more proactive by checking their own building's fire escapes and reaching out to building management or local authorities if they suspect any issues. Remember, awareness and proactive action can make all the difference in preventing disasters.

For more details on how you can ensure the safety of your building's fire escape, visit NationalFireEscapeAssociation.organd follow the "Fire Escape Guy" on TikTok to see his safety inspections in action. Together, we can make our cities safer, one fire escape at a time.

The Interview Fire Escape Safety

Hello everyone. This is Dave with Mighty Line Minute, and I've got a great show today. We've got the founder of the National Fire Escape Association, Cisco with us today. He's going to tell you things that you haven't heard about before, and you're going to learn some things that you need to know, not just you as a listener, but everyone. And this is the guy known as The Fire Escape Guy. Again, the founder, Cisco. Good to see you today. Educate folks about what you do and what you've done and what the world needs to know. 

Sure. If you're on Tik Tok, go to Fire Escape Guy, and you're going to see us walking all over the country, up to a fire escape and say, "Is this safe?" And we'll tell you whether it's safe on the moment and on the spot, and using 98 percent of everything I look at, fails when we inspect. That's because fire escapes haven't been looked at for over 75 years. The law in the country just came up borrowed now in 2022. 

Why, why is it taking so long? I mean what's with this, we all see fire escapes? 

So right now, we're here with the NFPA, 'cause they've been around for a long time, since 1927. Their [Code] says the authority having jurisdiction shall accept by load tests or other evidence is strength, but they don't say how many years you're supposed to repeat this. So, they really rely on the owners of properties to do the right thing. And guess what they do right all the time? They collect rent. Guess what they don't do right all the time? Fix a window, fix a sink and fix their fire escapes. So we put it out there through Tik Tok and also here at the National Fire Protection Association Expo to help change the laws. And we've had a great effect nationwide, and for the NFPA to just add to their [Code], "every five years." Otherwise, if you go on Tik Tok, and I do from Seattle to San Diego, Chicago, to Texas, and from Maine to Florida. I walk up to everybody's fire escape and I just say, Hey, is this safe?” and I prove that it's not safe. It hasn't been kept painted and it's not structurally sound. 

So I'm from Cleveland, do you get into Cleveland? What do you find there? 

I've taught classes. I've taught classes in Cleveland. Right? And I've taught a fire escape awareness class. I teach it nationwide. And I teach it for free. So a lot of times I have to fly myself into Cleveland. Teach this class for free and it's continuing ed credit. So you get three credits or six credits as I speak about fire escapes. But some of these poor cities, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Boston, Los Angeles. It's the last thing you ever think about, how it's called the bastard child of egress. 

Oh my gosh

That's why it's called, out of sight, out of mind. Don't give it any money. Don't give it any paint. Don't give it any bolts. But then when it kills people, then they call me and I'm an expert witness on fire escape injuries and fatalities, and we sue the owners of a building who hope the insurance company covers it. And if they don't cover it, that building gets taken because somebody got hurt on the fire escape, whether it's a tenant or fireman. 

You know, Cisco itinteresting that we came to meet each other. When we were selecting our booth for Mighty Line, we saw that you guys were set up here, and I said, you know we need to be next to these folks because this is something that everyone needs to know. So, I'm so glad we got to learn more about this. And where can people go to learn more about what you do, and how do they get educated while your website, Tik Tok?

Tik TOK is if you want to see it in your city, if your fire escapes are safe or not safe. And your job is to call the landlord. Call the management company. And if they don't listen to you, call the fire department, call the building department and say, I don't think my fire escape is safe based on the little knowledge I have. It looks brown to me. Right? The second place is to go is to NationalFireEscapeAssociation.org. Go there, and all the classes we've ever taught to every fire official building efficient nationwide is there for free. You can watch and get to learn more and learn about all the codes. And that way you can watch just what your city is or is not learning, is or is not doing, about this law, which sadly just came into effect nationwide in 2022 in a lot of states. 

You know, and there's got to be specific testing that's required that we can learn about on that website? Because I think most folks don't know how you even test a fire escape. 

So there's two parts to it. So there's only three people that can inspect a fire escape. An engineer. It doesn't have to be structural. An architect. So they both have to be registered in your state. Then the third one is somebody that's approved by a city official, such as a fire escape inspector, such as a certified fire escape inspector. Do not go after these guys that are going to give you free estimates. Those are called the welding witchdoctors.

How do you get certified with Fire Escape Safety

Well, the first step is you're already certified if you're registered in the state as an engineer, or you're registered in your state as an architect. The third acceptable to the building official has to be certified and sometimes by the National Fire Escape Association or the National Fire Escape Academy. You know what I'm saying? That's what, one of the things I found that to help get these people certified. But if you have some expertise in that field, so you could be a fire protection engineer with a certain knowledge that you've attained in fire escapes and you, too can inspect these fire escapes. Is there a national license for fire escape inspectors? There isn't. But that's the first step. You inspect your fire escapes first by one of these three people. Then it gets repaired while these three people watch them repair the fire escape. And then at the conclusion of the repair, there's a load test. And that's the physical putting on of weights on it. Sandbags, water bags. You know it's a hundred pounds per square foot. So a typical 5 by 5 platform takes 2,500 pounds of sand or water on it for a certain period of time [on top of the dead weight]; that's called a load test. And so that is the conclusion now, because most of the fire escapes I inspect are 75 to 125 years old. Never inspected. 

Okay. So it sounds like a career opportunity for anyone looking to go into an interesting field. I'll bet you're looking for people?

We're looking for people. 

Okay. So, folks take a look at the National Fire Escape Association. Learn more from Cisco and his team. They've got a wonderful group here. Thanks so much for your time today, and we're going to feed you more folks, Cisco

And we'll give them stickers while we're there. 

Awesome. Stop by the booth if you're here at [the NFPA Expo]; 904 Mighty Line, and 902 National Fire Escape Association. 

He'll send you over anyway, just in case. He's right next door. 

Be safe. Be safe. Bye.

Note: In the earlier code editions (2018, 2021) The International Fire Code (IFC) 1104.16.5 required fire escape inspections by registered design professionals (or others acceptable to the fire code official) “… every 5 years.” The most recent IFC (2024 ed.) requires testing not less than “live-load plus 100 lbs./sq.ft.” though dropped the “every 5 years provision. The NFPA 101 Life Safety Code’s 2024 ed. Ch. 7 “Means of Egress” Sec. “Materials and Strength” does not specify “… every 5 years,” but authorizes the AHJ to “…be permitted to approve any existing fire escape stair that has been shown by load test or other satisfactory evidence to have adequate strength.” 

Many local administrative ordinances require fire escape load testing “… every 5 years” along with the submission of a test report for review and approval, that is often typically based upon the IFC load test criteria (e.g., Boston, Cleveland, Portland, etc.). However, the City of Tacoma’s fire department requires fire escape load testing of stairways and balconies with 200 lbs./sq.ft. plus dead loads vs. the IFC minimum “100 lbs./sq.ft.” Be sure to check all applicable ordinances, codes, standards and regulations, and to involve only authorized registered professionals in accordance with applicable codes and standards.

Contact Cisco and the Fire Escape Association 


References for Fire Escape Safety









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