Here's from the 2000 IRC, the 2006 is roughly the same.
EMERGENCY ESCAPE AND RESCUE OPENINGS
R310.1 Emergency escape and rescue required. Basements
with habitable space and every sleeping room shall have at least
one openable emergency escape and rescue windowor exterior
door opening for emergency escape and rescue. Where openings
are provided as a means of escape and rescue they shall
have a sill height of not more than 44 inches (1118 mm) above
the floor. Where a door opening having a threshold below the
adjacent ground elevation serves as an emergency escape and
rescue opening and is provided with a bulkhead enclosure, the
bulkhead enclosure shall comply with Section R310.3. The net
clear opening dimensions required by this section shall be obtained
by the normal operation of the window or door opening
from the inside. Escape and rescue windowopenings with a finished
sill height below the adjacent ground elevation shall be
provided with a window well in accordance with Section
R310.1.1 Minimum opening area. All emergency escape
and rescue openings shall have a minimum net clear opening
of 5.7 square feet (0.530 m2).
Exception: Grade floor openings shall have a minimum
net clear opening of 5 square feet (0.465 m2).
R310.1.2 Minimum opening height. The minimum net
clear opening height shall be 24 inches (610 mm).
R310.1.3 Minimum opening width. The minimum net
clear opening width shall be 20 inches (508 mm).
R310.1.4 Operational constraints. Emergency escape and
rescue openings shall be operational from the inside of the
room without the use of keys or tools.
R310.2Window wells.Window wells required for emergency
escape and rescue shall have horizontal dimensions that allow
the door or window of the emergency escape and rescue opening
to be fully opened. The horizontal dimensions of the window
well shall provide a minimum net clear area of 9 square
feet (0.84m2) with a minimum horizontal projection and width
of 36 inches (914 mm).
Exception: The ladder or steps required by Section
R310.2.1 shall be permitted to encroach a maximum of 6
inches (152 mm) into the required dimensions of the window
R310.2.1 Ladder and steps.Window wells with a vertical
depth greater than 44 inches (1118 mm) below the adjacent
ground level shall be equipped with a permanently affixed
ladder or steps usable with the window in the fully open position.
Ladders or steps required by this section shall not be
required to comply with Sections R314 and R315. Ladders
or rungs shall have an inside width of at least 12 inches (305
mm), shall project at least 3 inches (76 mm) from the wall
and shall be spaced not more than 18 inches (457 mm) on
center vertically for the full height of the window well.
R310.3 Bulkhead enclosures. Bulkhead enclosures shall provide
direct access to the basement. The bulkhead enclosure
with the door panels in the fully open position shall provide the
minimum net clear opening required by Section R310.1.1.
Bulkhead enclosures shall also comply with Section R314.9.
R310.4 Bars, grills, covers and screens. Bars, grills, covers,
screens or similar devices are permitted to be placed over emergency
escape and rescue openings, bulkhead enclosures, or
windowwells that serve such openings, provided the minimum
net clear opening size complies with Sections R310.1.1 to
R310.1.3, 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.
Would a sprinkler system soften that rule? Your insurance company
might give you a discount that would pay for it in a couple years. I
put one in my Md house because I had a couple choke points near the
utilities that scared me. The parts were actually pretty cheap.
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