To:Head of Fire Departments
From:Stephen D. Coan, State Fire Marshal
Date:March 30, 2000
Re:Emergency Escape Windows

A recent fire in a Boston College dormitory has brought the issue of security screens to the forefront.

Be advised 527 CMR 10.03(13)(e) Means of Egress requires "bars, grilles or screens placed over emergency escape windows shall be releasable or removable from the inside without a key, tool or force greater than which is required for normal operation of the window.

Boston College had installed high strength steel wire cloth screens, manufactured by Kane Manufacturing Corporation, Kane, PA, on all dormitory windows at the Newton/Boston campus. These screens, impenetrable with an axe, were permanently screwed to the existing window frames. As such, the installations violated section 10.03(13)(3)(e) of the Board of Fire Prevention Regulations and were subsequently ordered removed. Kane Manufacturing does offer the same high strength steel screen with several different quick release options, which would meet the provisions of the code.

Although this is an isolated incident involving Kane window screens, any installation of bars, grills or security screens placed over emergency escape windows must meet the provisions of 527 CMR 10.03(13)(e).

M.G.L. Chapter 148, section 5 and 527 CMR 1.06(1)(c) authorizes the head of the fire department to order obstructions to, or on fire escapes, stairs, passageways, doors or windows, liable to interfere with the egress of occupants or the operation of the fire department in case of fire to be remedied.

Further, 527 CMR 1.06(4) allows when, in the opinion of the head of the fire department, there is actual and potential danger to the occupants of any building, structure or premises because of inadequacy of any means of egress, the head of the fire department shall order the immediate evacuation of said building, structure or premises.

Local fire departments are urged to identify occupancies within their jurisdictions where the above referenced obstructions may be installed to determine compliance with the Board of Fire Prevention Regulations.

If you have any questions please call the Code Compliance & Enforcement Unit at (978) 567-3300 or in western Massachusetts at (413) 587-3181.