Defining IBC Approved Emergency Exit Symbols

Also known as running man signs, emergency exit symbols play a crucial role in International Building Code (IBC) safety. Created by the International Code Council (ICC) to regulate the egress safety of new construction that features occupancy above 75 feet from the lowest level of fire vehicle access, the code addresses all egress safety considerations, with its guidelines for luminescent egress markings and signs within vertical exit enclosures (referred to here as “enclosures”) receiving the most press. The code’s guidelines for enclosures interest building owners for two corollary reasons: low visibility evacuations are known for causing evacuation related injuries and fatalities, which lead to lawsuits that are costly to defend.

IBC Specs for Running Man Signage

According to IFC 1024.2.6.1, a running man sign must contain two design specs: luminescence, and a total height of no less than 4 inches, both of which ensure that a sign remains visible during low visibility.

IBC Application Guidelines for Running Man Signage

According to IFC 1024.2.6.1, a running man sign must be center mounted on every exit-leading door within an enclosure, positioned 18 inches above the finished floor, a location that allows the sign to be seen from both standing and crawling positions.

Running Man Signage and State Law

IBC approved emergency exit symbols are required in new buildings in all states, as all states have adopted a version of the code. Owners of existing buildings, on the other hand, are required to implement the signs only if their state adopted a version of the International Fire Code (IFC), created by the ICC to regulate both new and existing construction. Currently, a version of the IFC has been adopted by at least 42 states, with all states expected to adopt a version soon.

A Recent History of IBC and IFC Egress Markings and Signage

The adoption of the codes into law was spring boarded by the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, where the bombs destroyed the World Trade Center’s backup generators that powered its backup lighting, leaving its occupants to evacuate in the dark. Preventing this situation in today’s buildings is the technology behind photoluminescent exit signs and egress markings: photoluminescence, which occurs when an object absorbs photons from its surroundings and them emits them, creating a bright glow.

Unlike electricity powered back up lighting, photoluminescent signs and egress markings are electricity-free and maintenance-free, making them ideal for evacuations precipitated by structural shock or fire. In addition to containing breakable parts, backup lighting also performs poorly in the presence of smoke, which inhibits its illumination and makes it difficult to see non-luminescent signage. Photoluminescent markings and signage brightly glow by the process of photoluminescence, meaning their illumination isn’t occluded by smoke or airborne debris.

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