Room Capacity Who Determines It?

Do you wonder how the meeting room capacity is determined? A maximum room occupancy sign is in every meeting room. Can you set a room to accommodate those posted numbers? In many cases the planner finds fault with a facility. You assume that the facility management wants to boost their figures. Therefore they misrepresent the room occupancy count. This is not true. So, who determines the maximum room capacities?

Maximum Room Capacity

The maximum room capacity is the maximum probable number of occupants present at any one time. In each state there is a uniform fire code. The code is used to calculate maximum room capacities. As a result, the governing of the fire safety codes varies from state to state. The National Fire Protection Association is the leading information and knowledge resource on fire, electrical and related hazards. In addition, the NFPA 101®: Life Safety Code® contains requirements used to calculate the occupant load. You can reference this document on

Three things that a fire marshal will look for when visiting your event:

  • First of all, access
  • In addition, egress
  • Finally, anything that stands out as a potential hazard

The maximum room capacities are posted in a meeting room. They are based on the capacity of an empty room. When you determine the occupancy level of a meeting room you need to calculate this figure based on the actual use of the space. Especially relevant, is that the room occupancy needs to have enough egress capacity to accommodate the number of people likely to occupy the space. The egress needs to be properly located, easily accessible and well maintained.

Safety of Your Audience

Inspector Michael Versaggi of the New Jersey Division of Fire Safety says that a fire doubles in size every 90 seconds. Further, in the event of an emergency people need to be able to exit a building within 4 minutes. Remember that exiting is the most critical of all requirements for any room occupancy. While the probability of a fire in a meeting room might be low, the loss of life once a fire occurs is extremely high.

If there is an emergency and your attendees need to immediately exit the meeting room and the facility, do your room set-ups allow for clear access and egress? Will the format of the room set hinder the safe exit of the attendees in that room?

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  • Emmie Norton February 11, 2022   Reply →

    I work in a municipal town office in Wisconsin. Our large Community Room has never had a maximum occupancy sign. Who can determine this maximum capacity number. We are a small town with a volunteer fire department. I am concerned about safety, especially if we have a large number of people in that room for an event. Also our smaller ‘board room’ has no sign either.

    • Sally O'Shea February 17, 2022   Reply →

      Good Morning Emmie,
      My recommendation would be that you reach out to your Township Fire Marshall.
      Let me know if this person does not exist in your township.
      Hope that this helps.

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