If you’ve ever been wandering around the fourth floor of Rush Rhees Library and spotted a room next to the Film and Media Studies department that has an emergency exit door almost completely covered by cinder blocks, you’ve probably wondered why it’s there and where it leads to. The answer to this question lies in fire codes and the need for additional emergency exits.
“When a building is improved or altered in a significant fashion, parts of the existing structure may be required to come into compliance with contemporary safety standards,” Dean of Libraries Ron Dow said. “What you have unearthed is an example of just such a safety improvement.”
According to Dow the library was built in the late 1920s, when building and fire codes didn’t require there to be as many fire exits as are required today.
In order for the library to meet such codes, they had to come up with a creative solution to providing an emergency exit in that location.
“A hole was created in the cinder block wall so a door could be installed at the exact location of the fire stair that goes up the exterior of Rush Rhees on the Wilson Commons side,” Dow said.
Because of structural concerns, a regular fire exit couldn’t be installed there.
“Since the cinder block wall is a structural aspect of the building, a door that would meet the letter of the law yet not cause Film Studies to fall from the fourth floor was constructed,” Dow said.
So what really lies behind that door is a fire exit that can be used in the event of an emergency.
“In case of a fire, push the alarmed bar, open the mini door and crawl out onto the metal stair,” Dow said.