Chair Arrangements in the Sanctuary

Jeff Rhodes, of the Harrisonburg Fire Department, visited CMC in the summer of 2009. He gave the following guidelines to be in compliance with fire codes.

  1. If there is seating on both sides of an aisle, we need to keep a 4-foot aisle.
  2. If there is seating on just one side (against the wall), we need to keep a 3-foot aisle.
  3. From any seat, we need to keep 30 feet (of the walking path) or fewer between that seat and the “point of choice,” which, in our building, is the pillars in the back. The “point of choice” indicates where a person has an option for which direction to exit. In our case, the option is to go through the doors to the fellowship hall, right to an exit (down the steps), or left to an exit (down the steps).

Jeff Rhodes also indicated that in our building, we probably have more than 30 feet between the front-most chairs and the pillars, which he said is still okay because it is the constraints of the building. However, we should keep in mind that chairs at the greatest distance from the exits need to have exit routes as direct as possible. Rhodes’ biggest concern is that exits and aisles not be confusing, and he doesn’t think this is a problem in our setting because we don’t have visual obstacles in the space. For comparison, he referred to how the exit paths would be more complicated if we had cubicles in a space this large.