Do you remember getting the fire safety talk as a kid? If you’re older than 20, you probably remember the part where your parents explain how to break a window, cover it with coats and blankets, and climb out. Did any parents actually think their kids would manage to do that under pressure without hurting themselves? Probably not, but there were no alternatives.
These days, we have escape windows. These are casement windows large enough for a person to climb through in case of an emergency.
What Makes a Good Escape Window?
An escape window needs several special features, above and beyond normal windows. These are:
- Opens Inwards:
Inwards-opening windows are safer than outwards-opening ones. In a storm, an inward-opening window is only blown against the wall, while an outward-opening one is blown at speed right into whoever is climbing through. Additionally, inward-opening windows are more secure at ground-level as they cannot be pried open.
- Easy to Operate:
Most people are not at their best during a crisis, so a simple and large latch can go a long way. This is especially true for the young, elderly, or disabled. The latch should be clearly visible, easy to turn, and low on the frame.
The window needs to swing on a vertical hinge, like a door. A vertical hinge allows access without lifting the window up, making the window easy to exit even for shorter or weaker individuals.
- At Least 2’ by 3’ (60 by 90 cm) and up to Code:
Most municipalities specify an exit of a certain size from all finished basements. A typical figure is 6’ square, which makes a lot of sense. It’s hard to imagine a grown adult fitting comfortably through a space any smaller.
Since escape windows are large and at ground level, they can present a security risk. Even worse, adding a keyed latch defeats the purpose, making it vulnerable to someone reaching through a hole in the glass to open it. On the bright side, the latch is the only major risk, since inwards-swinging casement windows are impossible to open with a crowbar. Manufacturers lower the risk through low latch placement and by using thick tempered glass. Manufacturers may also decrease the risk by applying an anti-shatter film.
Benefits of Escape Windows
Other than improved safety, escape windows provide many benefits to a homeowner. Escape windows are large, bringing more light into a room. They are completely impervious to wind and water, and exceptionally well-insulated. They are even easy to clean: just swing it inwards and wash both sides. They are the rare safety upgrade that also improves upon your room in every way!