When your building contains the best egress safety for evacuations, its occupants are protected from tragedies that occur when egress safety is inadequate. But in addition to protecting your occupants against injuries and death, the best egress safety also protects you or your company against legal action that can follow such happenings. But what is the best egress safety for evacuations? It begins with assessing the state of your building’s vertical exit enclosures (referred to here as “enclosures”), the long stairwells that no almost one uses until an evacuation occurs.
There are numerous sources for improving evacuation safety, but the most reliable one is the International Fire Code (IFC), which regulates the egress safety of commercial and residential R1 buildings that contain occupancy above 75 feet from the lowest level of fire department vehicle access. For enclosures, the code sets two types of guidelines: guidelines for applying luminescent markings, and guidelines for applying luminescent safety signage. The markings are a more reliable indicator of enclosure dimensions than backup lighting, and the signage is a more reliable indictor of exit leading doors and other information than non-luminescent signage.
The Synergy of Luminescent Markings and Safety Signs
After photoluminescent markings are applied to an enclosure’s handrails and handrail extensions, steps, landing areas, obstacles, and exit leading doors, thus illuminating its dimensions, IFC approved safety signs that inform evacuees of their location within the enclosure and which doors to travel through to reach the building exit are applied: floor identification signs and running man signs, respectively.
1. Floor Identification Signage
UFC Floor identification signage communicates the following information about enclosures: stair or ramp identification, individual floor level, total number of floor levels, availability of roof access, and the story of and direction toward the exit. According to a 2010 study on stairwell evacuation conducted by researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the behavior of evacuees is perhaps the greatest predictor of an evacuation’s efficiency or lack thereof. Placed at each floor level within an enclosure not more than 5 feet above the finished floor in a position that’s visible when doors are open or closed (IFC 1022.8), floor identification signage helps to increase evacuation efficiency by keeping evacuees more informed and therefore calmer.
2. Running Man Symbols
Also known as emergency exit symbols, running man symbols are center mounted on exit leading doors with their top not more than 18 inches above the finished floor (IFC 1024.2.6.1), a position that allows them to be easily seen from standing and crawling positions. When combined, photoluminescent egress signs and markings create enclosures that increase the safety of a building’s owner and its occupants in the event of low visibility emergency evacuations.