Fire exit symbols are implemented in commercial buildings under two circumstances: in preparation for a fire, and after a fire has occurred. In buildings that prepare for fires, exit symbols encourage timely evacuations. In buildings that don’t prepare for fires, the absence of exit symbols can lead to injuries and casualties that result from evacuees’ poor awareness of their surroundings.
Fire Exit Symbols and the IFC
The International Fire Code (IFC) was created by the International Code Council (ICC) to regulate the construction safety, structural safety, and egress safety of commercial and residential R1 buildings that have occupancy above 75 feet from the lowest level of fire vehicle access. Concerning egress safety, the code requires a luminescent emergency exit symbol (a.k.a. running man sign) to be center mounted on each exit-leading door 18 inches above the finished floor, making the symbol viewable from a crawling position.
Fire exit symbols’ efficacy depends on two things: strategic placement, and luminescent design. Unlike running man signs of the past, which were reflective but not photoluminescent, luminescent IFC running man signs brightly glow in the dark, even when smoke or dust is present. This provides a visual cue to building occupants as they evacuate, helping them access doors that lead to exits.
According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology, evacuee behavior plays a significant role in evacuation time. IFC fire exit symbols encourage smooth evacuations by providing a visual cue that encourages evacuees to make correct decisions.
Other Important IFC Regulations
In addition to requiring fire exit symbols on exit-leading doors, the IFC requires luminescent markings to be placed on the following elements in vertical exit enclosures: handrails and handrail extensions, the leading edges of steps and landings, the perimeter area of landing areas, egress path obstacles, and the doorframes and door hardware of exit-leading doors. The markings illuminate the dimensions and critical equipment of vertical exit enclosures, providing evacuees with dynamic visual cues.
Backup lighting is not enough
Currently, at least 42 states have adopted a version of the IFC. In buildings that are not IFC regulated, emergency backup lighting may be the only form of emergency illumination. Relying on backup lighting is risky for several reasons: it could malfunction due to explosions, falling debris, battery failure, faulty wiring, bulb failure, or generator failure, and it performs poorly in the presence of smoke. Luminescent fire signage and egress markings are immune to these things. Offering superior visibility in the presence of smoke, luminescent markings and exit symbols are electricity-free and contain no breakable parts.
At Jessup Manufacturing, we have over 10 years of experience developing luminescent egress products that meet the highest standards, including Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards, National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) codes, and IFC codes. Unlike other luminescent materials, our patented Glo Brite technology offers superior visibility and burn time (up to 96 hours in total darkness). We carry a variety of IFC compliant emergency fire exit symbols for commercial and large residential buildings.