The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) develops codes that improve the fire safety of commercial buildings. Regarding exit signage, NFPA code 101 is concerned with the placement, visibility, illumination, and testing of exit signs. Below, we look at how the code defines an acceptable exit sign in terms of placement, visibility, illumination, and testing.
NFPA 101 requires the bottom of exit signs be placed not less than 80 inches above the finished floor. To comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), additional exit signs should be mounted on the wall adjacent to a door’s latching side, with their bottom not less than 60 inches above the finished floor. These signs should contain Braille, and should be installed according to the Code of Federal Regulations (28 CFR part 36 sec. 4.30.6).
To ensure the visibility of signs from a distance, NFPA 101 requires their letters to be a minimum of six inches in height, a minimum of two inches in width (except the letter “I”), and the width of the letters’ stroke to be a minimum of 3/4 inch.
NFPA exit sign requirements require signs to burn with a minimum luminance of 0.06 feet lamberts. They must also remain visible for at least 50 minutes in total darkness. In addition, photoluminescent signage must have its surface illuminated by a 5 ft-candle light source.
As with emergency backup lighting, the NFPA requires exit signage to be monitored at least once every 30 days for the operation of its illumination source, or periodically monitored in accordance with NFPA 101 sec. 18.104.22.168.3.
The impact of NFPA exit sign regulations
NFPA exit sign regulations ensure that exit signage remains visible during low visibility evacuations, a valuable aspect of any building safety plan. However, the regulations do not require buildings to implement the safest signs. For example, electrical signs, which have breakable parts and rely on electricity, are as acceptable under NFPA requirements as photoluminescent signs, which contain no breakable parts and are electricity-free.
The value of photoluminescent signage
Because we know the importance of photoluminescence to egress safety products, Jessup Manufacturing recommends that building owners approach NFPA exit sign compliance by first choosing photoluminescent signs. Whereas some emergencies don’t cause electrical signage to malfunction, others do, especially ones that involve falling debris, explosions, structural shock, or generator failure. Faulty wiring and drained backup batteries are also causes of electrical exit sign malfunction.
In addition, a building that has electrical signs incurs thousands of dollars more in sign maintenance and electricity use than a building equipped with electricity-free and maintenance-free luminescent signage. In fact, research shows that replacing 100 incandescent signs with photoluminescent signs can save roughly $3,700 a year in energy costs alone.
At Jessup manufacturing, we offer a variety of NFPA exit sign models that contain our patented Glo Brite technology, which offers superior visibility at 100 feet and superior burn time (up to 96 hours in total darkness). To learn how much you could save by implementing luminescent exit signage, contact us today.