During emergency evacuations, evacuees must reach building exits quickly. And illuminated egress paths can ensure that they do. Without proper lighting, egress jams can cause injury or even death, at which point lawsuits against building owners can occur. In many buildings, emergency egress lighting is the only deterrent to these things, and it is not the best solution.
The shortcomings of backup lighting
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has strict guidelines for ensuring that emergency egress lighting works as planned. However, even when these guidelines are followed, the inherent weaknesses of backup lighting can cause problems. From a safety perspective, traditional backup lighting has three glaring weaknesses:
- It performs poorly in the presence of smoke.
- It could malfunction in the event of falling debris or explosions.
- It could malfunction due to generator failure.
A well-known example of the third weakness occurred during the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. When the bombs detonated in the basement of the World Trade Center, they destroyed its backup generator, which rendered the backup lighting in its hallways and vertical exit enclosures useless. Most evacuees navigated its vertical exit enclosures in complete darkness.
The benefits of luminescent egress markings
Luminous egress markings differ from backup lighting in distinct ways. First, they are illuminated by photoluminescence, which makes them visible through smoke. Second, they do not contain breakable parts. Third, they are electricity-free, which makes them immune to generator failure.
Instead of “illuminating” hallways and exit enclosures, luminescent egress markings outline their dimensions and equipment. For example, The National Fire Protection Agency’s (NFPA) Life Safety Code recommends that luminous stripes be placed on the walls and in the center of hallways, and the International Fire Code (IFC) requires luminous markings to be applied to the following areas and equipment in vertical exit enclosures: the leading edges of steps and landings, the perimeter of landing areas, handrails and handrail extensions, egress path obstacles, and the doorframes and door hardware of exit-leading doors.
When combined with luminescent safety signs and self-luminous exit signs, luminous egress markings comprise the ideal egress safety system for commercial and large residential buildings.
The importance of visual cues for evacuees
According to a study by the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University in New York, evacuees from the September 11,2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center reported that: (a) they felt their evacuation time decreased when strong visual cues were present, and that (b) it increased when such cues were not present.
Luminous egress markings provide these cues, the importance of which is supported by a National institute of Standards and Research (NIST) study that found that evacuee behavior is one of the strongest predictors of evacuation safety.
Implement luminous egress markings today
Though emergency backup lighting is an OSHA requirement, implementing luminescent egress marking is still necessary for evacuation safety. Our egress markings are powered by our patented GloBrite technology that delivers supreme visibility and burn time. To learn more about luminous safety signs, exit signs, egress markings, and building safety, call us today.