Roman Vigiles Urbani ("Watchment of the City"), established in 6 AD by emperor Augustus, were the earliest known publicly-funded fire-fighters. Organized in brigades like the military, they not only fought fires, but had the authority to punish those who violated fire prevention codes.

In 2000, the International Code Council (ICC), completed a series of model building codes which today serve as the foundation for building and fire codes throughout the United States. Among the new ICC codes was the International Fire Code® which covers the regulation of fire hazards in existing buildings, and the installation, testing and maintenance of fire protection in new and existing buildings. Updated every three years (2000, 2003, 2006, & 2009), the code is the culmination of years of "best practices" efforts by the Building Officials Code Administrator's International (BOCA) National Fire Prevention Code, the Southern Building Code Congress International's Standard Fire Prevention Code, the International Conference of Building Official's Uniform Fire Code.

The portion of the ICC International Fire Code® that applies to emergency lighting, exit signs, and "means of egress" is presented below (from the 2009 edition). The International Fire Code® is a "model code," and while some states or localities have implemented the code in full, other states or locality have implemented only certain parts and changed others. For the most accurate information on your local codes, check with your local code enforcement agency.

Administered and published by the International Code Council (ICC), the International Fire Code® addresses those construction, protection, and occupancy features necessary to establish the minimum requirements consistent with nationally recognized good practice for providing a reasonable level of life safety and property protection from the hazards of fire, explosion or dangerous conditions in new and existing buildings, structures and premises, and to provide safety to fire fighters and emergency responders during emergency operations.



[ The International Fire Code® uses Occupancy Classifications as defined in Chapter 3 of the International Building Code® ]

    The International Building Code®
        Chapter 3: Use and Occupancy Classification
        Section 303: Group A - Assembly
        Section 304: Group B - Business
        Section 305: Group E - Educational
        Section 308: Group I - Institutional
        Section 309: Group M - Mercantile
        Section 310: Group R - Residential
        Section 312: Group U - Utility and Miscellaneous



1001.1 General. Buildings or portions thereof shall be provided with a means of egress system as required by this chapter. The provisions of this chapter shall control the design, construction and arrangement of means of egress components required to provide an approved means of egress from structures and portions thereof. Sections 1003 through 1029 shall apply to new construction. Section 1030 shall apply to existing buildings.
    Exception: Detached one- and two-family dwellings and multiple single-family dwellings (townhouses) not more than three stories above grade plane in height with a separate means of egress and their accessory structures shall comply with the International Residential Code.
1001.2 Minimum requirements. It shall be unlawful to alter a building or structure in a manner that will reduce the number of exits or the capacity of the means of egress to less than required by this code.


[ The International Fire Code® adheres to Section 1002: Definitions as defined in Chapter 10 of the International Building Code® ]


[ The International Fire Code® adheres to Section 1006: Means of Egress Illumination as defined in Chapter 10 of the International Building Code® ]


[ The International Fire Code® adheres to Section 1011: Exit Signs as defined in Chapter 10 of the International Building Code® ]


[ The International Fire Code® adheres to Section 1024: Luminous Egress Path Markings as defined in Chapter 10 of the International Building Code® ]


1030.1 General. The means of egress for buildings or portions thereof shall be maintained in accordance with this section. Overcrowding conditions shall be abated in accordance with Section 107.6.

1030.2 Reliability. Required exit accesses, exits or exit discharges shall be continuously maintained free from obstructions or impediments to full instant use in the case of fire or other emergency when the areas served by such exits are occupied. Security devices affecting means of egress shal1 be subject to approval of the fire code official.

1030.3 Obstructions. A means of egress shall be free from obstructions that would prevent its use, including the accumulation of snow and ice.

1030.4 Exit signs. Exit signs shall be installed and maintained in accordance with Section 1011. Decorations, furnishings, equipment or adjacent signage that impairs the visibility of exit signs, creates confusion or prevents identification of the exit shall not be allowed.

1030.5 Nonexit identification. Where a door is adjacent to, constructed similar to and can be confused with a means of egress door, that door shall be identitied with an approved sign that identifies the room name or use of the room.

1030.6 Furnishings and decorations. Furnishings, decorations or other objects shall not be placed so as to obstruct exits, access thereto, egress therefrom, or visibility thereof. Hangings and draperies shall not be placed over exit doors or otherwise be located to conceal or obstruct an exit. Mirrors shall not be placed on exit doors. Mirrors shall not be placed in or adjacent to any exit in such a manner as to confuse the direction of exit.

1030.7 Emergency escape openings. Required emergency escape openings shall be maintained in accordance with the code in effect at the time of construction, and the following: Required emergency escape and rescue openings shall be operational from the inside of the room without the use of keys or tools. Bars, grilles, grates or similar devices are allowed to be placed over emergency escape and rescue openings provided the minimum net clear opening size complies with the code that was in effect at the time of construction and such devices shall be releasable or removable from the inside without the use of a key, tool or force greater than that which is required for normal operation of the escape and rescue opening.

1030.8 Testing and maintenance. All two-way communication systems for areas of refuge shall be inspected and tested on a yearly basis to verify that all components are operational. When required, the tests shall be conducted in the presence of the fire code official.