Is there an International Exit Sign?

Is there an International Exit Sign?

Building owners in the U.S. use a variety of exit signs, such as incandescent, compact fluorescent, LED, and photoluminescent, to name a few. But they all have one thing in common: they display the word “Exit” in green or red. In many countries, exit signage doesn’t display the word “Exit” or its foreign language equivalent. Contrary to appearances in the U.S., the U.S. style exit sign is not the international exit sign.

Instead of using U.S. style signs, many countries use what we in the U.S. refer to as emergency exit symbols, also known as running man symbols thanks to their stark running man character. As building occupants approach a door that contains the symbol, its running direction tells them how to travel as they pass through it (up, down, left, or right).

The power of the running man symbol

In the U.S., luminescent emergency exit symbols are mounted on exit-leading doors in accordance with the International Building Code (IBC) and International Fire Code (IFC), which apply to commercial and residential buildings that contain residency above 75 feet from the lowest level of fire department vehicle access. But could they replace our traditional signs? To find out, it helps to view them from two perspectives: safety value, and through the eyes of U.S. building occupants.

The safety value of running man symbols

International proponents of replacing U.S. style signs with running man symbols point to two aspects of the latter that increase egress safety: anyone can understand what their symbol refers to, and their green and white color scheme implies moving toward a safe exit, especially when coupled with the running man symbol. U.S. style signs, on the other hand, communicate such notions as “danger” and “halt,” especially when they burn in red, say critics.

In addition to offering a simpler identification of building exits, luminescent running man symbols could improve egress safety by eliminating the reliance issues that come with backup batteries. However, many U.S. buildings already contain luminescent exit signage. So, should the emergency exit symbol be considered the international emergency exit sign for the power of its symbolism and inviting color scheme? Not necessarily, say U.S. safety experts.

How evacuees see things

To building occupants in countries that use running man symbols to mark building discharges, U.S. style signs can seem ominous due to their alien appearance. But to building occupants in the U.S., they can seem like beacons of hope at the end of smoky halls, even at their reddest. For buildings in the U.S., running man symbols play an important role in emergency egress safety. But so do U.S. style signs, if only for psychological reasons. If running man symbols become the international exit sign, their adoption in the U.S. will likely be gradual, not the result of sudden code changes.

At Jessup Manufacturing, we supply a variety of photoluminescent signage and running man symbols. After years of research, we created our patented Glo Brite technology that gives our products superior visibility and burn time. Whether you need U.S. style exit signs, running man symbols, or both, browse our huge selection to find the prices and designs that meet your needs.

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