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Window Opening Control Devices and Safety Plans

Risk of fire rises in the Fall. Prepare now by educating others on creating a home escape plan, plus understand the types of WOCDs

Fall is in the air. And that means on cooler nights, homeowners or renters may open windows to let in a breath of fresh air. It also means the time of year when as outdoor temperatures drop, people turn on the furnace, light up the fireplace or relax outdoors by the fire pit, which could raise the risk of home fires.

Considerations for safe exit in emergency situations

Would your customers know what to do if they had to exit your home, or that of a friend or a family member quickly in an emergency? Let’s face it. Many people may not have practiced a home fire escape plan since their elementary school days. Now’s the time to help educate your customers on the importance of developing a home fire escape plan, which involves identifying two exits from each room in the home, through a door and a window.

Resource: Window Safety Resources from FGIA can help educate your customers and your team members.

Exit routes should not blocked by furniture, debris or clutter that could cause someone to trip or fall. Train your customers to test the windows and doors to make sure they know how to release the hardware to open windows, especially if they had to do so in the dark crawling through smoke or in a power outage. Emphasize that it’s important to test doors and windows that may be used as emergency exits to make sure they open quickly and are not caulked, painted or nailed shut, or do not have broken or damaged hardware that hinders safe exits. Help them understand that if exit windows and doors or the hardware holding them are damaged, it’s time to consider replacement, for safety’s sake.

The types of window opening control devices

Specialized window hardware, called Window Opening Control Devices (WOCDs) are allowed by building code to be installed on operable windows designated as emergency escape and rescue openings that comply with ASTM F2090, providing they do not encroach on the opening area dimensions required in the code.

There are two types of WOCDs: single-action and dual-action. ASTM F2090 sets criteria for devices considered to be window fall prevention devices. According to provisions in ASTM F2090, the release of WOCDs can be either through the use of two independent single-action devices installed on a single window or one dual-action device installed on a single window.

For example, a single-action device would be a lever that can be flipped in, with two such devices installed on the same window. A dual-action device requires two separate, distinct and consecutive actions to release the WOCD. For example, pushing in one button and, while holding that button in, sliding over a lever.

Proper installation of a WOCD on a window is key. Window manufacturers may offer factory installed WOCDs on their windows, or WOCDs may also be available as a field kit or applied as an after-market device. Installation of the WOCD so that the sash will stop at a less than 4-inch opening and meet the other provisions of ASTM F2090 is also important.

Teach your employees and your customers that taking a few minutes a few times a year to create, update and practice their home fire emergency escape plan could make all the difference in whether they and their loved ones can escape quickly and safely, should a fire or other emergency strike. Minutes matter. Lives matter. Make it a priority to include educating your customers and team members on the essential need to plan and practice their home fire escape plan soon. 


Kathy Krafka Harkema FGIA

Kathy Krafka Harkema

Kathy Krafka Harkema is the Fenestration and Glazing Industry Alliance's U.S. Technical Operations Director.